More than 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children are now in US custody

There are more than 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children in US custody, according to the latest government data. U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 near Mission, Texas. By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

(CNN) -- There are more than 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children in US custody, according to the latest government data, marking a new high as the Biden administration announces a string of sites to accommodate kids.

As of Tuesday, there were 4,228 unaccompanied children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, an agency not generally prepared to care for children for prolonged periods, and 16,045 children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees a shelter network.

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The latest figures indicate some level of progress as the administration tries to alleviate overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities and transfer kids to HHS.

But encounters of children crossing the US-Mexico border alone are still high. On Tuesday, 747 unaccompanied children crossed the border.

"What we are doing every single day is: 'OK, where are we? How many people came in today? Where are they going? How many beds do we have? What are any blocks in the system to move kids out of the system to place them with their parents?'" a White House official told CNN on Wednesday. "It's a million little things that add up to increasing this throughput of children."

Still, the administration will need to continue to build up bed capacity and drastically reduce the time it takes to release unaccompanied migrant children to sponsors like parent or other relatives in the US in order to avoid backlogs in Border Patrol facilities in the coming months, according to internal government documents obtained by CNN.

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