Around 2,900 migrant children detained by U.S. Border Patrol over the past year tested positive for coronavirus, including 300 currently in custody of U.S. agencies.
There are currently over 11,500 unaccompanied minors in shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to government data obtained by Axios. The 300 positive cases make up less than 3 percent of all migrant children in HHS custody, and are reportedly in medical isolation in HHS facilities.
“The positivity rate in general is what was anticipated, and planning has resulted in robust response,” HHS spokesman Mark Weber told Axios on Wednesday.
The influx of migrant children crossing the southern border has caused a backlog in HHS, which is charged with finding shelter for the children while their asylum claims are processed. Border Patrol agents are charged with finding HHS shelters for unaccompanied minors following their detention, however because of the backlog many children have remained in border patrol facilities longer than the 72-hour legal limit.
The Biden administration has forbid media outlets from visiting or receiving photographs from inside Border Patrol facilities, however Representative Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) provided Axios with images from one such facility showing overcrowded conditions.
“We have to stop kids and families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to come to the United States,” Cuellar said. “We have to work with Mexico and Central American countries to have them apply for asylum in their countries.”
The 11,500 migrant children currently HHS custody is higher than the number of children detained in May 2019, when a major uptick in illegal crossings overwhelmed border agencies.