The Trump administration has expelled more than 159,000 people since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emergency order took effect in March, a figure that also includes more than 7,600 adults and children who crossed the border in families.
The figures on children were reported for the first time in a declaration by Raul Ortiz, the Border Patrol's deputy chief, as part of the administration's appeal of an order to stop housing children in hotels.
The administration asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a ruling last week that found use of hotels skirted “fundamental humanitarian protections.”
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles ruled that using hotels for long-term detention violated a two-decade-old settlement governing treatment of children in custody. She ordered border agencies to stop placing children in hotels by Tuesday.
“While in these hotels, the government provides minors with supervision by specialists, recreation, amenities, and protective measures against COVID-19,” the attorneys wrote.
Before the pandemic, unaccompanied children were sent to state-licensed shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services and often released to family members while seeking asylum.