(CNN)The number of unaccompanied migrant children held in jail-like conditions by US Customs and Border Protection dropped nearly 84% in the span of a month, according to a White House official, underscoring the significant progress made by the administration after reaching record high custody figures.
As of Wednesday, there were 954 children in CBP facilities, down from a peak of 5,767 on March 28, the official told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record.
The volume of arrivals weeks into President Joe Biden taking office, combined with an unprepared administration, left thousands of children languishing in Border Patrol facilities often for longer than the 72-hour limit set by federal law. In some cases, children were alternating schedules to make space for one another in confined facilities and taking turns showering, often going days without one, while others hadn’t seen the sunlight in days.
The Biden administration fielded a flurry of criticism from Republicans who blamed the influx of migrants at the border on the President’s immigration policies. Against the backdrop of migrants in overcrowded conditions along the border, officials refused to call the situation a “crisis,” describing it instead as a challenge.
In an interview with NBC News this week, Biden suggested that the situation with unaccompanied children is now under control, saying, “It’s way down now. We’ve now gotten control,” and touted “significant change in the circumstances for children to and at the border.”
In recent weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the care of migrant children, has opened up a string of temporary shelters to accommodate minors. That’s allowed for an increasing number of children being transferred out of border facilities to spaces equipped to care for them at a quicker pace.
The average time that kids are in CBP custody is now 28 hours, compared to 133 hours on March 28, the official said, a nearly 80% reduction in time spent in Border Patrol detention.
By Priscilla Alvarez for CNN
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