In June 2019, social media posts popped up claiming that that it costs taxpayers $750 (or $775) per child per day to house immigrant children in “tent cities” and other detention facilities.
That tweet read:
These for-profit concentration camps charge us, the taxpayers, $750 per day, per child.
It costs $22,000 to detain *one child* for *one month* and they’re not even provided with soap, toothbrushes, or beds.
In the tweet’s replies, its original poster added:
The original poster also provided a source from a June 2018 NBC News article, which reported the slightly higher $775 figure as one of two daily rates referenced, and citing the United States Department of Health and Human Services as a source.
According to NBC News, the $775 per day per child figure was in reference to so-called “tent cities,” whereas the lower and older figure of $256 stemmed from housing children in permanent indoor facilities:
The cost of holding migrant children who have been separated from their parents in newly created “tent cities” is $775 per person per night, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services — far higher than the cost of keeping children with their parents in detention centers or holding them in more permanent buildings.
The reason for the high cost, the official and several former officials told NBC News, is that the sudden urgency to bring in security, air conditioning, medical workers and other government contractors far surpasses the cost for structures that are routinely staffed.
It costs $256 per person per night to hold children in permanent HHS facilities like Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. And keeping children with their parents in detention centers like the one run by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement in Dilley, Texas cost $298 per resident per night, according to an agency estimate when it awarded the contract for the facility in 2014.
At those prices, the additional cost to operate a 400-bed temporary structure for one month at capacity would be more than $5 million. The average stay for separated kids is nearly two months.
The same figure appeared in a June 25 2019 GQ.com article, but that linked back to the June 2018 NBC News story. A day earlier, BoingBoing cited the same numbers and the same 2018 report. Both appeared to have been inspired by reporting from the Texas Tribune on subpar and deteriorating conditions at the makeshift camps.
Although that information was first reported in June 2018, a February 2019 Reuters article provided roughly the same costs associated with “tent cities” versus permanent indoor shelters:
It costs approximately $250 per day to house a migrant child at a standard, permanent shelter, said Mark Weber, an HHS spokesman. But at an influx facility like Homestead, the cost is triple that – around $750 per day. It is covered by American taxpayers.
The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border is not out of line with previous years, but children are spending far longer in federal custody, government data show. The average length of stay for migrant children in HHS custody for the first four months fiscal 2019 was 89 days, compared to 60 days in fiscal 2018 and 41 days in fiscal 2017, according to HHS data.
As of Feb. 13 , 11,500 children were in HHS custody, down from a record of nearly 15,000 in mid-December , partly because of a change in fingerprinting policy — but still it was nearly 80 percent higher than a year ago, the data show.
In June 2019, claims that it cost $750 or $775 per day per child to keep immigrant children in detention centers circulated on social media. The numbers cited originated with the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2018. However, the cost associated had only to do with the “tent cities” being used for detention, not the indoor detention facilities. An updated figure for the latter type of center was not readily available.