The Slatest

The U.S. Detained a Record 69,550 Migrant Children This Year

A young child is processed by Border Patrol agents.
A young child is processed by Border Patrol agents after being detained when crossing into the U.S. in Sunland Park, New Mexico.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New government data shows the United States detained a staggering 69,550 migrant children in 2019, the Associated Press reports, meaning the U.S., this year, has held an unprecedented number of minors apart from their parents in the name of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policy. The nearly 70,000 children who spent time in detention in the U.S. is more than anywhere else in the world, according to the United Nations, and amounts to a 42 percent rise from the previous fiscal year. The detained migrant children were held for longer periods away from their parents than ever before, despite the known trauma caused by the stress of detention and long-term physical and emotional impact it has on children.

Many of the tens of thousands of migrant children have already been deported, leaving some 4,000 still being held in the U.S. “While children have been arriving alone at the U.S. border for more than a decade, the number of children in government custody has grown sharply over the last two years, largely because they have been held for longer time periods,” according to the AP. “A few months after Trump took office, the federal agency was caring for about 2,700 children, reuniting them with awaiting relatives or sponsors in about a month. This June, that topped 13,000, and they stayed in custody for about two months.”

“The U.S. government calls migrant children held without their parents ‘Unaccompanied Alien Children’ — UAC in bureaucratic jargon,” the AP reports. “Federal law requires the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide them food and shelter, and medical and mental health care. But the HHS Office of Inspector General found there aren’t enough clinicians or specialized care in shelters holding migrant children.”

Correction, Nov. 12, 2019: This post originally misstated that the U.S. has detained a record number of migrant children separated from their parents by the U.S. government. It has been updated to clarify that while the U.S. has detained a record number of migrant minors, many of those minors came without their parents to the U.S., where they were then held alone.