Number of Immigrant Children in Detention Reaches Highest Level Ever

The number of immigrant children held under federal custody in the U.S. has reportedly reached nearly 12,800—a record-high figure.

Even though it is only slightly higher than previous reports earlier this year, it stands as the highest number of children to be detained in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

It is also five times higher than the number of children detained in May 2017.

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Protesters and their children participate in a sit-in in the Hart Senate Office Building to mark the court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunify thousands of families separated at the border on July 26 in Washington, D.C. The number of immigrant children in federal custody in the U.S. has hit a record high. Win McNamee/Getty

The report comes as the Trump administration announced plans on Tuesday to triple the amount of space at a desert tent camp being used to house detained children, outside El Paso, Texas.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Tuesday that it would be expanding the camp based near the Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry to accommodate the growing numbers of children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The number of temporary beds available at the tent camp is expected to grow from 1,200 to as many as 3,800, with around 1,400 of those spaces to be placed on "reserve" and made available as needed, according to CNN.

The camp was set up in June to respond to the growing number of children being taken into federal custody as the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" family separation policy was underway.

The policy, which saw around 2,500 immigrant children separated from their parents, was rescinded on June 20 after the White House faced widespread backlash, with the United Nations branding the rule a "violation" of children's rights.

Read more: Trump Administration to Triple Size of Tent Camp for Immigrant Children

HHS Administration for Children and Families spokesperson Kenneth Wolfe sought to make clear that the decision to expand the camp was not related to the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" family separation policy.

"'Family separations' resulting from the zero-tolerance policy ended on June 20, 2018, and are not driving this need," Wolfe said, The Washington Post reported.

He said HHS officials have "worked round the clock to add beds or add shelters to avoid any backup [at the border]."

The HHS department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.