The vast majority of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in the United States from Central America this year have been released to relatives in states with large established Central American populations, according to federal data released Thursday night.
A total of 30,340 children have been released to sponsors — primarily parents and other relatives — from the start of the year through July 7, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has overseen the care of the children after they are turned over by Customs and Border Protection. More children have been released in Texas than in any other state, with sponsors there receiving 4,280 children, followed by New York with 3,347. Florida has received 3,181 children and California 3,150. Maryland and Virginia have each also received more than 2,200 children.
The numbers do not include those children who are still being cared for in shelters, which have prompted the most outrage from governors and other local officials across the country. Many children who are placed in shelters for some period of time — anywhere between a few days and a few months — have later been released to family members.
Officials have said that more than half of all children initially placed in shelters have gone on to be reunited with at least one parent already living in the United States, and 85 percent of all children have been placed with a close family member.
Sponsors must be vetted by social workers, a process that includes a criminal-background check, and must also promise to make sure that the child appears for required immigration court appearances. The adults do not have to be citizens or legal permanent residents, and officials have acknowledged that some sponsors may be living in the United States illegally.
Children who are not able to find qualified sponsors are placed in long-term shelters or in foster care. Roughly 10 percent of the unaccompanied minors who have been taken into custody this year have been placed in such care, which is overseen by the federal Administration for Children and Families, said Kenneth J. Wolfe, a spokesman for the department.
While the numbers do not include a breakdown by nationality, the vast majority of children are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been arrested by Border Patrol agents, primarily in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Nearly 53,000 of those children have been released to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, with more than 47,000 going to sponsors or relatives.
The metro areas with the largest number of immigrants from Central America are Los Angeles, Washington, Houston and Miami, according to census data compiled by the Migration Policy Institute. Los Angeles has the largest number of immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala, and New York and Miami have the most Honduran immigrants, according to census data.
SOURCE: JENNIFER MEDINA
The New York Times