The Biden administration has reportedly spent $3 billion in contracts to house unaccompanied children at the border – as it continues to deal with a continued influx of migrants coming to the border each day.
The Associated Press reports that the government has awarded about $3 billion in contracts since February, more than $2 billion of which were “no-bid” contracts awarded to three recipients.
Those companies have traditionally responded to national disaster and built COVID-quarantine centers. But, as the U.S. has been encountering record numbers of unaccompanied children, they’ve moved into shelter-construction.
In March, 18,890 unaccompanied children were encountered – a 100% increase from the already high numbers encountered in February, and the highest number recorded.
On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that authorities were still seeing around 270 children coming across the border every day.
“We’re down to about 1,830 people per day right now,” he said, referring to encounters at the border. “Unfortunately, we’re still seeing a fairly high population of migrant children are coming across – 270 a day right now, the last 21 days.”
The Biden administration has pointed to “root causes” like violence, poverty and climate for the surge – as well as an alleged lack of preparedness by the Trump administration. Critics have blamed the rollback of Trump-era policies, as well as the decision by the administration not to apply Title 42 – which allows officials to remove migrants quickly – to unaccompanied children.
It led to scenes of packed Border Patrol facilities with children stacked up against one another, as well as images of children being dropped and abandoned by smugglers in harsh conditions.
While facilities like those in Donna, Texas have now been emptied, the number of children in Health and Human Services (HHS) custody has spiked from 11,000 in March to 22,000 in May. The Biden administration has quickly been opening facilities across the border, including using military bases.
While facing criticism from the right for letting migrants in in the first place, activists have expressed concern about how they are treated, including a lack of media access and children allegedly not meeting with case managers.
In a statement to the Associated Press, HHS said the new child-migrant centers are “consistent with best practices/standards in emergency response or other humanitarian situations.”
Meanwhile, the government is paying for children to travel to their sponsors, and even for adult sponsors to come and collect the minors being placed into their care.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been put in charge of the diplomatic talks to end the crisis, has recently met virtually with Guatemalan and Mexican leaders, and is due to travel to the countries next month.