Becerra Admits 300,000 Migrant Children Released Into US

During congressional testimony on Wednesday, Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra disclosed that over the last three years, more than 300,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been released into the United States, sparking heated discussions on immigration policy and border security. During the hearing before the joint Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Becerra shared these figures while discussing the department’s budget requests for 2025.

Republican lawmakers questioned the oversight of these minors, particularly those placed with unrelated adults. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) asked Becerra about the follow-up process for these children, to which the secretary responded that while it is not a statutory obligation, HHS makes a “concerted effort” to maintain contact, committing to at least three phone calls to both the child and the sponsor.

Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows a staggering increase in unaccompanied minors detained at the border, with more than 464,000 cases recorded from January 2021 through January 2024. The numbers have surged since the Department of Homeland Security ceased the return of children to Mexico, a policy enacted during the previous administration under President Donald Trump to curb the spread of COVID-19.

This policy shift under President Joe Biden’s administration has led to a yearly influx of 125,000 to 150,000 children, far exceeding the numbers recorded under both the Obama and Trump administrations. The response from HHS has been to expedite the release of these minors by easing vetting and screening processes for sponsors. This move has drawn criticism for potentially compromising child safety. This expedited process has been necessitated in part by the creation of temporary tent cities to accommodate the wave of unaccompanied minors entering the United States.

Once released, these children remain in the U.S. awaiting immigration court proceedings, which can extend for years. The lengthy wait times, coupled with less stringent vetting of sponsors, compound the challenges facing these young migrants and the systems in place to protect them.

The handling of this migrant surge reflects broader debates surrounding immigration policy and border security, which remain polarizing issues in American politics. The increase in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border has not only strained resources but also intensified scrutiny on the Biden administration’s approach to immigration and the safety and welfare of migrant children.

The disclosure by HHS Secretary Becerra reveals deep-seated issues within the U.S. immigration system, highlighting the challenges of managing an increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children. This situation poses not only logistical challenges but also raises ethical questions regarding the welfare and safety of these minors.

The policy shift from the Trump to the Biden administration reflects differing approaches to border security and immigration. The increase in unaccompanied minors underlines the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform that balances security concerns with humanitarian considerations.