FIRST ON FOX: The Department of Homeland Security has removed just 409 unaccompanied child migrants (UAC) encountered at the southern border since the beginning of the 2021 fiscal year despite a massive surge in encounters that has seen over 345,000 UACs at the border, according to government data obtained by a conservative legal group.
America First Legal (AFL) obtained data from the administration through a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The data show that there have been 409 unaccompanied children returned since October 2020, when FY 21 began, up until the 10th week of FY 2023.
The first three months of FY 2021 took place under the Trump administration, but the majority of the returns occurred during the Biden administration — which has been in charge amid a historic migrant crisis at the southern border.
The number of UACs encountered at the border jumped from just 33,239 in FY 2020 to 146,925 in FY 2021 and 152,057 in FY 2022. So far in FY23, there have been more than 46,000 UAC encounters.
But according to the data obtained by AFL, which has repeatedly sued over a number of administration policies, there were just 151 removals in FY 2021, 220 in FY 2022 and 38 in the first ten weeks of FY 2023.
Typically, UACs who are encountered at the border are processed and transferred into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which seeks to unite the minors with parents or sponsors already in the country. There have been a number of high-profile instances of children being handed over into the hands of smugglers, who then abandon the children at the border.
Recently, the New York Times published a story on how migrant children are being forced to work in dangerous jobs across the U.S.
AFL noted that the 345,000 total population of UACs encountered in the timeframe is roughly the size of Honolulu, Hawaii, and challenged prior claims by Biden administration officials that the border is “not open.”
Stephen Miller, president of AFL and a former senior Trump White House official, pointed to the decision by the Biden administration to exempt minors from expulsions under the Title 42 public health order.
The Trump administration included UACs in Title 42 expulsions but was temporarily blocked toward the end of the administration by a federal judge.
“When President Trump initiated Title 42 for UAC the smuggling of minors hit record lows. Numbers plummeted,” Miller said. “Agents couldn’t remember a time so few UAC were in custody. Biden’s decision to unilaterally and categorically exempt UAC from Title 42 triggered the largest wave of child smuggling in known world history for which he is solely responsible.”
Miller said the move was aggravated by the ending of other Trump-era border policies and prosecution initiatives by the Biden administration.
“The UAC catastrophe is arguably Biden’s single most ignominious open borders crime in a list of open borders wrongdoing almost without end and certainly without equal,” he said.
AFL is also behind a lawsuit currently before the courts that seeks to block a humanitarian parole program announced by the Biden administration in January which allows for up to 30,000 migrants from four countries each month to enter the U.S.
Separately, the Biden administration has recently unveiled a rule automatically making migrants ineligible for asylum if they have crossed the border illegally and failed to claim asylum at a previous country through which they traveled. The proposed rule would, however, exempt unaccompanied children.