The number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border has risen dramatically over the last few months. The Biden administration is looking for ways to deal with that influx, and address long-term immigration issues that carried over from the Trump administration.
Nick Miroff covers immigration enforcement for The Washington Post. He told Texas Standard that there’s been a fourfold increase over the last few months in the number of unaccompanied minors. About 2,000 cross each day, he says.
“Unaccompanied minors are not on the levels that we saw in 2019 during that record influx,” he said. “[But] things are certainly headed that way and will be there in the next couple of months unless these trends change.”
In the short term, the Biden administration is setting up “tent” facilities at the border to temporarily shelter and process the children. One facility is in Carrizo Springs, Texas, and another is planned for Eagle Pass. The facilities are managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which tries to identify people living in the United States – usually family members – who can take custody of the children.
“It has to identify a sponsor who’s eligible to take custody of that of that minor. And that requires some vetting. They can’t just hand the child over to the first adult who shows up,” Miroff said.
The Biden administration is also working with Mexico to address immigration issues. Neither has found a short-term solution to the influx of unaccompanied minors. But the administration is working with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to address “root” causes of immigration from Central America, including unemployment.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, former President Donald Trump criticized the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas shot back, defending the policies in a press conference, saying the new administration has had to rebuild an immigration system “gutted” by Trump’s administration.
Part of that rebuilding process is reuniting some 500 families who are still separated under Trump’s family separation policy.