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Children and workers at a tent encampment near the Tornillo Port of Entry in Tornillo, Texas. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New data obtained by the New York Times reveals that 12,800 migrant children are under federal detention as of this month — in contrast to the approximately 2,400 children in custody of May of last year — marking the highest record ever documented.

Key finding: The spike is in response to a drop in the number of children being released to stay with relatives and other sponsors, some of whom are discouraged from coming forward to sponsor children amid strict immigration enforcement, per the Times. The data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services also shows that the increase is not due to the influx of children crossing the border.

The details: The revelation comes a day after HHS said it plans to triple the size of an immigration detention camp outside El Paso to accommodate up to 3,800 migrant children by the end of this year. But Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for HHS, reportedly said the expansion comes as a result of the growing number of new arrivals at the border.

  • Meanwhile, the new data reveals that the placement process has slowed, per the Times. But federal officials said the vetting system is designed to safeguard the children in their care.

Go deeper

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
55 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.