The number of unaccompanied migrant children being held more than three times longer than the legal maximum time has more than quadrupled in the past week, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents leaked to Axios.
The document shows that 823 unaccompanied migrant children have been held in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days even though the legal limit is 72 hours.
As of Saturday, 3,314 children were held longer than 72 hours and 2,226 of them were held for longer than five days.
The children are supposed to be transferred to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services but a recent surge in border traffic has overwhelmed the Biden administration’s capacity to process them.
The border remains closed to adults and families under a pandemic order issued by Donald Trump but the country still allows entry to unaccompanied children.
The Biden administration has tried to urge migrants not to come to the border and pressed Central American allies to stem the tide of migrants before they make it to the border.
But the surge has only accelerated. The number of migrant children held over 10 days was just 185 a week earlier.
Many migrants have come believing that the Biden administration’s softened rhetoric on immigration would give them a better chance of entering the country than under Trump. But many are also asylum-seekers who have been turned away but continue to return to the border multiple times.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted after visiting a border processing facility that he saw hundreds of kids packed into rooms.
“In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13 yr old girl sobbbed [sic] uncontrollably explaining thru a translator how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and without her parents,” he wrote.
"For clarification," he explained, "kids are no longer separated from their parents at the border (in this case, the girl's parents are in the US). But even though kids can now stay and apply for asylum, if they are traveling w relatives who aren't parents, the relative can't stay."