Why the Rush of Migrant Children at the Border? Because They Get to Stay

If migrant children make it into the U.S., they have a great chance of getting to stay.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports that the United States removed only 4% of the roughly 290,000 unaccompanied children who entered the country from fiscal years 2014 to 2019. That’s a pretty big incentive.

About two-thirds of unaccompanied children caught at the border since Oct. 1, 2020, have been from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Mexican children make up most of the remainder.

As of Wednesday, more than 11,000 unaccompanied children were in the custody of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refugee office that manages a government shelter system – the highest number since 2019.

Most of the kids in custody are teenagers, but hundreds are under 12 years old. The majority of unaccompanied children apprehended since Oct. 1, 2020, crossed through the Rio Grande Valley into Texas, according to CBP.

Many unaccompanied children come to the United States to reunite with family members or escape violence and poverty in their home countries, according to immigration experts.

Biden officials and migrant advocates acknowledge that the current increase is at least partly due to a recent policy change that allows unaccompanied children into the country after they were blocked for much of 2020.

Some children do make the potentially dangerous trip to the border alone or with a smuggler, according to immigration experts. In other cases, children travel with older siblings, grandparents or other relatives, and can be split apart by CBP after being caught at the border.  Immigrant advocates are concerned that parents may be traveling to the border with their children and sending them to the United States alone so that they will be permitted to enter.

If the parents and children entered as a family, they could be expelled under Title 42, a Trump-era health order to limit the spread of COVID-19, so instead parents send the kids alone.

Children are supposed to be transferred out of CBP custody to HHS-run shelters within 72 hours.  But when shelter space is limited, children can get stuck in border detention centers for longer periods – as is happening now.  The border stations were built to house adult men for short periods and could pose a COVID-19 health risk if they are overcrowded.  Once in the shelters, children can be released to parents or other sponsors, or placed in foster care. They can then pursue asylum cases, seek other ways to remain in the United States or potentially be deported – although that is unlikely to happen quickly.

The Donna facility had nearly 3,400 migrants in custody as of March 17 – far above its 250-person capacity, according to internal CBP data reviewed by Reuters.

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  1. Billy

    A illegal is still a illegal no matter the age. Enough of the Socialism send them back why cry for them then have to pay for them their whole lives.

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