Migrant children spend weeks at US shelters as more arrive

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Five months after the Biden administration declared an emergency and raced to set up shelters to house a record number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico...
border alone, kids continue to languish at the sites, while more keep coming, child welfare advocates say.

More than 700 children spent three weeks or longer at the government's unlicensed sites in mid-July, according to declarations filed with a federal court overseeing custody conditions for immigrant youth. Advocates say children should be released quickly to their relatives in the U.S. or sent to a licensed facility.

In one of the filings, a 16-year-old Salvadoran boy said children were served raw meat. It took more than a month for the boy, who said he speaks with both his parents each week, to be released to his father in Georgia.

"When I wake up every day, I feel really frustrated. Of the youth that I arrived with, I am the last one here," the boy said in his declaration. "I would like to be home with my dad right now."

When the Biden administration erected the emergency sites in March to ease dangerous overcrowding at border stations, they were meant to be a temporary fix. But months later, some wonder whether that's still the case.

Border crossings by children without an adult in July neared the same levels they did in March despite the summer heat.

"If you have a dinner party that you plan to have for three people, and 30,000 people show up, you're going to have a problem," U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee, who oversees the decades-old settlement agreement that governs custody conditions for the children, said at a recent hearing.

"The infrastructure is not set up for tens of thousands of people coming in at one time, and somehow the paradigm has to shift to figure out how to deal with these types of numbers."

U.S. border authorities reported more than 18,000 encounters with unaccompanied immigrant children in July, up 24% from a month earlier. The rise comes in the busiest month yet for the Biden administration on the border, with a total of nearly 200,000 encounters even though crossings are typically expected to slow during the summer.

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AMY TAXIN and JULIE WATSON
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