After declining through most of last year during the coronavirus epidemic, the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border — mostly teenagers — is rising to early-2018 levels. The surge coincides with a shortage of beds in government shelters due to the virus and is forcing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open makeshift tent facilities around the country to house the children while observing social distancing guidelines.

Sources: “Latest UC Data — FY2018,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 1, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/296jzpme; “Latest UC Data — FY2019,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 1, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/3pea778n; “Latest UC Data — FY2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 1, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/mjthfux6; “Latest UC Data — FY2021,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 2, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/85km9w87; “Fact Sheet: Unaccompanied Children (UC) Program,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 1, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/tachwfmw; and Nick Miroff, Andrew Ba Tran and Leslie Shapiro, “Hundreds of minors are crossing the border each day without their parents. Who are they?” The Washington Post, March 11, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/2b5vvmr5

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Month Year Average Number of Children in Shelters
January 2018 7,591
February 2018 7,644
March 2018 7,727
April 2018 8,647
May 2018 9,823
June 2018 11,531
July 2018 11,785
August 2018 11,751
September 2018 13,034
October 2018 13,286
November 2018 13,936
December 2018 14,226
January 2019 11,151
February 2019 11,473
March 2019 11,851
April 2019 12,587
May 2019 13,123
June 2019 13,432
July 2019 11,049
August 2019 7,751
September 2019 5,775
October 2019 4,501
November 2019 4,054
December 2019 4,236
January 2020 3,621
February 2020 3,617
March 2020 3,541
April 2020 2,331
May 2020 1,396
June 2020 997
July 2020 834
August 2020 849
September 2020 1,330
October 2020 1,929
November 2020 2,397
December 2020 3,691
January 2021 4,020
February 2021 7,700

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