ALONE AT THE BORDER
What to know about the recent spike of minors arriving at the U.S. Southwest border (and what’s happening next).
- Some minors arrive in the U.S. without legal status alongside a parent or legal guardian; others arrive *alone*, or with someone the gov’t deems unsafe (ex: child trafficker, a.k.a. “coyote”).
- “Unaccompanied alien children” (UAC) – what the gov’t calls minors (under 18) without lawful immigration status *and* no U.S. parent or legal guardian *available* to provide care and physical custody.
WHAT TO KNOW
- The Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apprehends those crossing the border illegally. They must transfer UAC w/in 72 hours to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), part of the Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS).
- As their legal status is sorted out (ex: applying for asylum), ORR places *most* UAC with “sponsors” (usually parents or close relatives) or they remain in ORR facilities.
THE DATA FLUCTUATES
- 2003 – 2011: Gov’t took less than 8,000 UAC into custody every year.
- 2012: The number started rising steadily, peaking at nearly 70,000 in 2019.
- 2020: The number fell below 15,400 as borders mostly closed due to COVID.
- Jan 2021: The numbers of UAC started to climb.
RECENT UAC SPIKE
- Jan 2021: More than 5,800 UAC – 17% increase from December.
- Feb 2021: Nearly 9,500 UAC – roughly 60% more than January.
- 90% of UAC who arrived since Oct. 2021 are between the ages of 13 to 17. Based on the recent past, a majority are males from Central America.
- Gov’t facilities reached capacity due to sudden increase & COVID protocols such as required social distancing.
- February 22: Due to the recent uptick, the Biden admin reopened an HHS facility in TX (used briefly during the Trump administration) in order to house up to 700 UAC ages 13-17.
- The White House said the facility needed to open to keep minors safe while families have yet to be vetted and while accommodating new pandemic protocols. Some of Pres. Biden’s fellow Democrats criticized the move.
“Our objective is to get these kids into safe homes with their families as quickly as possible. And we are absolutely not doing what the former president did … which is ripping kids from the arms of their parents.”
WH Press Sec. Jen Psaki on a former policy of separating children from their guardians during the Trump admin’s “zero-tolerance” policy for those apprehended at the border. The current UAC policy is consistent with past administrations.
“The Administration is flailing and failing on our southern border. The number of unaccompanied children has tripled in two weeks.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoing the remarks of critics who attribute the recent spike at the border to anticipation of the Biden administration implementing more lenient immigration policies.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the border is not open, and the vast majority of people are being returned under Title 42. Do not believe smugglers or others claiming otherwise.”
CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller. While CBP “encountered” more than 100,000+ people at the southern border, more than 72,000 were expelled due to CDC pandemic guidance under Title 42 authority (public health and welfare).
Comparing Jan & Feb 2021 to 2020, UAC are up over 133%, but overall southwest border encounters for all (single adults, families, UAC and accompanied children) are up over 144%. Why? Depends on who you ask. Some say politics. Others point to the violence and struggling economies in Central America – or a combo of all the above.
WHAT TO KNOW
- https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/uac-program-fact-sheet.pdf (historical #s)
- https://www.npr.org/2021/02/25/971425227/fact-check-biden-reopens-border-shelters-for-teens-but-its-not-kids-in-cages (January)
- https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/10/19/fact-sheet-dhs-measures-border-limit-further-spread-coronavirus (shutdown march – november)
- https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-land-border-encounters (BUT see table in email for easier viewing)
- https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/10/19/fact-sheet-dhs-measures-border-limit-further-spread-coronavirus (april – nov)
- https://www.hhs.gov/programs/social-services/unaccompanied-children/carrizo-springs-temporary-influx-facility-update.html (#s)
The Administration is flailing and failing on our southern border. The number of unaccompanied children has tripled in two weeks.
The White House keeps saying “Now is not the time to come.” So there will be a good time in the future to break federal law and come illegally?
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) March 10, 2021
Jan & Feb 2021 UAC: 15315
Jan & Feb 2020 UAC: 6566
Jan & Feb 2021 ALL: 178883
Jan & Feb 2020 ALL: 73272
by Jenna Lee,