The number of illegal immigrant children in detention centers under the Trump administration has skyrocketed to the highest levels ever recorded, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
According to data provided to Congress — and shared with the Times — there were 2,400 children in federal custody in May 2017. Currently 12,800 children are in custody, the Times reported.
The surge comes despite hundreds of children separated from their families at the U.S.–Mexico border having been released under court order, the Times noted.
According to the Times, the Department of Health and Human Services data suggests the precipitous rise is not because more children are coming into the United States illegally — but because fewer children are being released to live with their families or sponsors, the Times reported.
Most of the detained children crossed the border alone, and many are teenagers from Central America, the Times reported.
Usually children categorized as "unaccompanied" have been placed with sponsors, such as parents already in the United States, extended family members or family friends, as soon as the sponsors can be vetted by federal authorities, the Times reported.
The new data shows the placement process has slowed significantly. Monthly releases have plummeted by about two-thirds since last year.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration said Tuesday it would triple the size of a temporary "tent city" in Tornillo, Texas, for unaccompanied illegal immigrant children — and will now stay open through at least the end of the year, CBS News reported.
The facility will expand to accommodate up to 3,800 children after originally opening in June with a 450-bed capacity, CBS News reported.
"You are flying in the face of child welfare, and we're doing it by design," Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., told the Times. "You drive up the cost and you prolong the trauma on these children."
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