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Border crossings by children are on the rise, putting a strain on US facilities.



Border crossings by children are on the rise, putting a strain on US facilities.
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Border crossings by children are on the rise, putting a strain on US facilities.

Border crossings by children are on the rise, putting a strain on US facilities.


The Biden administration is on the defensive in the face of a surge of migrants on the Southwest border, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen recognizing the scale of the issue Tuesday but maintaining it is under control and stating he will not reinstate a Trump-era practice of deporting adolescents and children right away.

Since last April, the number of migrants stopped at the US-Mexico border has risen, and the administration is still increasingly expelling most single adults and families under a public health order released by President Donald Trump at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It does, however, encourage teenagers and children to stay, at least temporarily, and they have been arriving in ever-increasing numbers.

According to a US official, the Border Patrol was holding more than 4,000 migrant children as of Sunday, with at least 3,000 of them being kept for longer than the 72-hour cap imposed by a court order. According to a second official, the department received an additional 561 applications on Monday, more than double the recent average. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to address statistics that had not yet been made public.

It has placed President Joe Biden in a challenging position, with Republicans condemning him for supporting illegal border crossers and some Democrats criticizing him for detaining minors for lengthy periods of time. It’s also a setback for his efforts to reform Trump’s wider immigration policies, which aimed to limit both legal and illegal immigration.

“The situation at the southwest border is difficult,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged in his most detailed remarks on the topic to date on Tuesday. “We’re working around the clock to keep things under hand, and we’ll keep doing so. That is our responsibility.”

The number of migrants attempting to cross the border has risen to its highest level since March 2019, with Mayorkas predicting a 20-year high.

The number of children crossing by themselves, mostly from Central America, appears to be on the rise, particularly in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. On Monday, the Border Patrol alone took in 280 people.

The number of 561 unaccompanied minors as of Monday reflects how quickly things along the border have changed. According to one of the officials, this was up 60% from the regular average in February. The one-day peak in May 2019, during the previous boom, was 370 teenagers and infants.

According to the most recent figures published publicly by US Customs and Border Protection, the number of children and teens crossing by themselves increased by 60% from January to more than 9,400 in February.

To deal with the influx, the Health and Human Services Department plans to open shelters at Moffett Federal Airfield near San Francisco and in Pecos, Texas. It also plans to build a 2,000-person facility in Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley.

In addition, the Dallas Convention Center will begin holding children as early as Wednesday, with a capacity of 3,000. Another makeshift holding center in Midland, Texas, which opened last weekend with 700 children had 485 children on Monday.
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Adults are being caught more often after being expelled under a public health directive released last year to help avoid the spread of COVID-19. Other factors include the pandemic’s economic devastation and recent hurricanes that exacerbated living conditions in Central America. Smugglers are also likely to have motivated people to attempt to cross under the new administration, according to officials.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Mayorkas said an increase in the number of children is a problem for the Border Patrol and other agencies. He, however, opposed a Trump-era policy of returning them to Mexico or other countries right away.

“They are vulnerable children, and we have ended the tradition of expelling them under the previous administration,” he said.

Despite the fact that past migrant waves have occurred, including under Trump, Republicans in Congress argue that Biden’s support for new immigration laws and his decision to encourage citizens to file valid asylum claims have attracted migrants.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma displayed a picture of a small crowd of protesters in Tijuana, Mexico, wearing matching T-shirts with the words “Biden, Please Let us In” that had been widely circulated on social media in recent days during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

“They’re all coming over the border, and they’re all wearing Biden T-shirts,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a group of a dozen Republican lawmakers to the Texas border, where he blamed the Biden administration for pushing up the number of migrants by halting border wall construction and endorsing bills in Congress that would include a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country.

“The unfortunate thing of it all is that it didn’t have to be this way. This crisis was caused by the new administration’s presidential policies, according to McCarthy.
Complete Coverage: Immigration is a complex problem.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday, Biden fought back, recalling previous surges under Trump and pointing out that his administration has been attempting to deter people from crossing while seeking to restore an asylum system that had been weakened by his predecessor. “I heard they’re coming the other day because they know I’m a good person. Okay, so here’s the deal: They aren’t.”

In 2019, Trump faced a similar surge, despite his haste to extend the border wall scheme, forcing asylum seekers to seek asylum in Central America or stay in Mexico. He had forcefully separated migrant children from their families a year before as part of a zero-tolerance program that became one of his administration’s most important political challenges.

The Biden administration is enabling unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 to stay in the country as the government determines if they have a legitimate claim to citizenship, either under asylum law or for another purpose.

Mayorkas noted that 80 percent of the minors, the majority of whom are from Central America’s Northern Triangle, have relatives in the United States, and 40 percent have a parent. “These are children who will be cared for by their families,” he explained.

Last week, the Biden administration reversed a Trump policy that made relatives fearful of being deported if they contacted HHS to reclaim their children.

It is also supporting assistance to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to try to stem the influx of migrants at the source, in addition to building new temporary facilities to house migrant children.

Mayorkas slammed the previous administration for repealing an asylum scheme that would have allowed for a more “orderly” immigration process, slashing assistance to Central America, and failing to vaccinate Border Patrol agents, among other things.

He also mentioned that the Biden administration is trying to streamline the asylum process by allowing applicants to petition from their home country rather than risking a risky and unpredictable path. He said, “We have no illusions about how complicated it is, and we know it will take time.”

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