US refugee agency sees record number of migrants in February

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the federal agency responsible for housing young migrants who enter the U.S., saw a record number of undocumented migrant children crossing the border in February.

The office saw more than 7,000 undocumented children cross the border last month, CBS News reports. The outlet reported the trend appears to be continuing, with more than 1,500 minors already crossing the border in March.

“It is obviously very, very concerning,” a senior White House official told CBS. “People are being exploited and told lies and coming in the absence of understanding that they are undertaking this dangerous trip and that the border is closed.”

Previously, the record high for February crossings was set in 2019 when almost 5,900 undocumented children were processed by the agency, ORR told CBS. The Hill has reached out to ORR for comment.

The Biden administration has been under scrutiny for reopening a migrant facility in Texas last month to house unaccompanied minors amid a surge in border crossings.

“I think they have a real problem on their hands,” a shelter official who helps house undocumented children told CBS News. “They’re frankly going to be overwhelmed with these numbers.”  

Due to the influx of undocumented children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the refugee agency can add the number of beds they were allowed to have before the pandemic.

The number of beds in a facility was slashed at the start of the pandemic due to health concerns, but the CDC says they have no choice but to lift the restriction.

“The only available options for housing (unaccompanied children) are prolonged stays at CBP facilities operating significantly above COVID-adjusted capacities, or placement in ORR facilities operating at capacity above the current COVID-19-adjusted thresholds,” an agency memo said, referring to Customs and Border Protection facilities, according to CBS. “While CDC recognizes the inherent risk posed by any congregate housing facility, CBP facilities are not appropriate for housing children.”

The CDC said the ORR “should plan for and expect” more coronavirus cases because of the increase in undocumented children in their facilities.

Numbers have been going up with minors crossing the border as there was a 19 percent increase in January from December numbers, CBS News reported.

White House press secretary acknowledged the increase in undocumented minors on Friday and said the administration expects the numbers to continue to go up.

“We recognize the challenge of having these unaccompanied children come across the border and the influx that we’re certainly preparing for and, and preparing to approach,” Psaki said.

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