The number of unaccompanied migrant children held in federal detention centers has risen this year to the highest levels ever. Despite the release of hundreds of children to the care of family or sponsors this past summer, federal shelters currently house 10,000 more children compared to May 2017—now a total of 12,800. More kids sit in detention because there is no one to legally release them to.
Sponsors, usually close relatives, often have no legal immigration status, and in June, the Trump administration announced a new vetting policy requiring potential sponsors, including parents, to provide their fingerprints, which may be shared with immigration authorities. The New York Times reported fewer relatives and friends have come forward since then to sponsor migrant children.
Central American migrant kids—mostly teenagers—are crossing the U.S. border at roughly the same numbers as in years before the Trump administration enacted policies earlier this year to discourage the flow. With its 100-plus shelters at or near capacity, the government is shifting children to a new border tent city in Tornillo, Texas, near El Paso, to house up to 3,800 kids waiting for a way out. —R.H.