The number of unaccompanied children (UACs) entering the United States during fiscal year 2019 has grown to levels never seen before, Jonathan Hayes, director of the HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), told Congress on Thursday.
According to his written testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, DHS referred more than 67,000 UACs to ORR as of Sept. 16, 2019, which is the highest number in the program’s history.
Compare that to the 59,170 DHS referrals in FY 2016, the second highest number of referrals on record.
At the moment, HHS has less than 6,000 UACs in its care, but the number fluctuates on a daily basis, Hayes said.
“The number of children in our care is down from a recent high of over 13,700 just a few months ago in June. This decline is due to a decrease in daily referrals over the last few months, and ORR’s ability to maintain a steady high discharge rate of UAC placement with sponsors,” he testified.
Hayes explained that the length of time that an unaccompanied minor stays in HHS custody has actually decreased compared to last year – almost half the number of days compared to 2018.
“As of July, the average length of time that a child stays in HHS’ custody is approximately 50 days, which is a dramatic decrease of over 40 percent from late November 2018, where the average length of care was 90 days,” he said.