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.
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.”
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.
“It really was such a coordinated effort where we had a team that’s really talking on a daily basis in problem-solving mode,” the White House official said. “It’s very orchestrated, well-organized to try to troubleshoot these issues.”
“The administration stood up a whole government effort in the face of a pandemic and a gutted immigration system and despite those challenges, we’ve made significant progress,” the official said, underscoring ongoing efforts to also address root causes of migration.
In March, the Border Patrol apprehended 18,663 unaccompanied minors at the US-Mexico border, up from the previous month, according to the agency’s data. March’s figures also far exceeded that of previous increases of unaccompanied children at the border, both in 2014 under the Obama administration and in 2019 under former President Donald Trump.
While the administration works to address root causes of migration, it’s also had to contend with growing numbers of children in government custody. As of April 27, there were more than 22,276 children in HHS care, according to government data.
Biden on NBC again warned Central American parents against sending children to the US.
“Do not send your kids, period. They’re most — they’re in jeopardy going– making that thousand-mile trek,” Biden said. “And so what we’re doing now is we’re going back to those countries in question where most of it’s coming from and saying, ‘Look, you can apply from your country. You don’t have to make this trek.'”
But sustaining the pace of arrivals will also require more licensed facilities and cutting down the time it takes to get a child to their sponsor, like a parent or relative. The administration has made some inroads on that front: The average time that children are being reunited with a sponsor has been reduced to 29 days, down from 40 days on February 22. Children being reunited with a parent or guardian is less, taking about 22 days.
This story has been updated with comments from President Biden.
CNN’s Geneva Sands and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.