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A photo taken from night video provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows smugglers after they dropped two children from the top of border barrier in Santa Teresa, N.M., on March 30, 2021. (AP) A photo taken from night video provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows smugglers after they dropped two children from the top of border barrier in Santa Teresa, N.M., on March 30, 2021. (AP)

A photo taken from night video provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows smugglers after they dropped two children from the top of border barrier in Santa Teresa, N.M., on March 30, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 9, 2021

More children held at the border under Biden than Trump, but not 4 times as many

If Your Time is short

  • Under President Donald Trump, the number of children crossing the Mexico border who were held in temporary U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody peaked at 2,600, in June 2019.

  • That figure is now around 4,200, not 12,000.

 

Is the number of children crossing the Mexico border more than four times higher under President Joe Biden than it was at its peak under President Donald Trump?

"Funny how all of a sudden there's no more photo ops, no more nonstop media coverage, and no more crisis at the border now that the numbers are at all time highs and a DEMOCRAT administration is in control," said a post widely shared on Facebook. "Oh, and you're a racist if you point that out. See how it works?"

The claim is made in an image shared with the post. The image, which includes a bar graph with red for Trump and blue for Biden, said: "Kids at the border: 2,600 highest number Trump, 12,000 currently under Biden."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The corresponding number is higher under Biden, but nowhere near 12,000.

Numbers of children in custody rapidly rising

The post was by Brandon Tatum, a conservative commentator and former police officer in Tucson, Ariz. who has 315,000 followers on Facebook and 1.49 million subscribers on YouTube. He made national news in 2016, the year before he left policing, after attending a Trump rally in Tucson as a civilian and then posting a video in which he said he feared there was going to be a riot at the event because of the behavior of anti-Trump protesters.

Tatum did not reply to our requests for information to back up his statement. 

When Texas Gov. Greg Abott claimed on March 30 that "twice as many children are in Border Patrol custody under Biden than" the peak number under Trump in 2019, our rating was True.

We found that 2019 was the last year border authorities recorded a surge in migrant children and family crossings. In 2020, the Trump administration stopped taking minors into custody after it implemented a policy that immediately expelled all people crossing the border, including children, citing COVID-19 precautions. The Biden administration suspended that policy for children in January, and now allows children who cross the border alone to remain in the U.S. while they await immigration court proceedings. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed to us that the 2,600 unaccompanied minors in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody in June 2019 was the highest such figure under Trump. 

The number was 5,160, essentially twice as many as at the peak under Trump, when Abbott made his claim.

Featured Fact-check

So, as of April 5, the date of Tatum’s Facebook post, had that figure more than doubled to 12,000? 

No.

According to the latest unaccompanied children daily reports provided to us by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the figure dropped. It was 4,231 on April 5 and 4,228 on April 6. 

Those figures count children housed temporarily by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Federal policy is to move those children into more permanent facilities run by Department of Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours.

As of April 6, there were 16,045 children in HHS facilities.

According to HHS, its more than 100 shelters in 17 states, run by state-certified nonprofit agencies, provide services on "par with facilities in the child welfare system that house American children."

Besides getting the numbers on the border wrong, T the framing of the post comparing Trump and Biden is missing context. 

Much of the uproar over Trump’s confinement of migrant children was because his policy was to separate families after they crossed the border — adults went to one place to await criminal charges, while their children were sent to another facility. That zero-tolerance policy for all undocumented border crossings was in place from April to June of 2018; it is not in place now. 

Our ruling

Tatum claimed: "Kids at the border: 2,600 highest number Trump, 12,000 currently under Biden."

Under Trump, the number of migrant children temporarily housed near the Mexico border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection peaked at 2,600, in June 2019.

Under Biden, the figure as of April 5, the date of Tatum’s post, was 4,231.

We rate the post Half True.

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More children held at the border under Biden than Trump, but not 4 times as many

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