The number of unaccompanied immigrant children and adolescents detained for illegally crossing the southern border into the United States is expected to rise by more than 50% in February from January, sources familiar with the matter said, citing the possibility of ‘a humanitarian crisis in the region.
About 2,200 children and adolescents crossed the border illegally every week in February and, according to some sources, the number is on the rise. The government predicts that around 9,000 children and adolescents will have been detained by the end of the month.
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported detaining 5,707 unaccompanied children and adolescents in January, an 18% increase from the previous month. The growing number of detained children is starting to undermine the government’s ability to house and care for them.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the situation. CBP either.
The Biden administration wants to prevent a repeat of the humanitarian crises of 2014 and 2019 at the border, when waves of families and children of unaccompanied migrants overwhelmed federal facilities.
Until February, the rate of arrival of unaccompanied children at the border was even slower than in the previous two waves.
The government’s task of helping children had already been complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of vacant places in the government network of homes for children and adolescents managed by the Refugee Resettlement Office of the Department of Health and Social Services has been reduced by 40% to allow for social distancing.
As a result, the vacant positions available to the government were exhausted in much less time than would normally have been. This week, the government opened an emergency shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas, to house more children.
When children cannot be sent to shelters quickly, they remain in the custody of border patrol. Cells in CBP facilities were not created to house children and their officers are not trained to care for children.
On Friday (26), more than 900 children and adolescents were waiting in border patrol posts to be transferred to a shelter. The information comes from a person familiar with the number. About 100 of these children were already waiting longer than the 72-hour limit allowed by law.
Illegal border crossings by children, families and unaccompanied adults have increased since the summer for several reasons. The pandemic has worsened the economic situation in Mexico and Central America, where most migrants come from.
The Biden administration has sought to strike a balance in its southern border policy, signaling immigration advocates that it is working to reverse former President Donald Trump’s policies that have restricted access to the system asylum seekers and, at the same time, potential migrants a message – in English and Spanish – that now is not the time to embark on the journey north.
White House officials are working with governments in Latin America to spread this message and, in some cases, to recruit agents from other countries to return migrants when they reach the southern borders of the United States.
The Biden administration has upheld an emergency public health order issued by former President Trump during the pandemic that allows border officials to quickly turn back most migrants they encounter, avoiding the formal arrest process.
In such cases, migrants have not been able to seek asylum, legal protection that anyone can claim if they are fleeing political, religious or other persecution in their country of origin.
Although crossing the border without permission is illegal, US law allows foreigners to seek asylum regardless of how they entered the country. According to data from the Ministry of Justice, the majority of people seeking asylum in the country end up being rejected.
In November, a court ordered the Trump administration to stop applying the emergency public health policy to children and adolescents. An appeals court overturned that decision after Biden took office, but his administration chose not to return children to their home countries.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday (25): “We believe our best option is to continue prosecuting these children in health department facilities where protocols against Covid are being followed. , wherever they are. care “.
Republicans and former Trump administration officials criticize the Biden administration for the move, saying it contributes to the recent increase.
“This is a self-inflicted crisis,” said Stephen Miller, senior Trump adviser and the former president’s immigration policy architect.