A record number of unaccompanied migrant children are in Border Patrol custody and shelter beds are scarce, raising fears of a new humanitarian crisis at the southern border.
More than 3,200 unaccompanied migrant children are being housed in Customs and Border Protection holding facilities, two sources confirmed to NBC News. The New York Times, citing internal CBP documents, first reported that the number of detained children “tripled in the last two weeks.”
Nearly half of the children — 1,400 — have been held beyond the three-day legal limit. The CBP holding cells, sometimes known as “hieleras” or iceboxes, are not designed for kids. They are typically small concrete rooms with concrete or metal benches and no beds.
Additionally, nearly 170 of the detained unaccompanied children are younger than 13, according to a source familiar.
Government data reviewed by NBC News shows the overall number of unaccompanied migrant children who crossed the U.S. border in February spiked to roughly 9,000.