The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has encountered another group of over 80 unaccompanied minors after they illegally crossed into the United States with 50 other illegal immigrants, the agency said this week.
U.S. immigration policies are again facing extensive scrutiny as the number of illegal immigrant encounters and apprehensions surged in recent weeks, and the dangerous conditions faced by unaccompanied minors on their journey to the United States attract increasing concern. The Biden administration has been placed under intense pressure to rapidly deal with the continuous flow of illegal border crossings, particular from unaccompanied minors.
While most single adults and some families are being turned back, the Biden administration has been accepting all unaccompanied minors—children who unlawfully enter the country without an adult. About 17,200 unaccompanied minors were in the custody of either CBP or HHS as of March 29, according to the HHS Administration for Children and Families.
Recent photos and reports from the border facilities in Texas show appalling and overcrowded conditions despite the pandemic, with immigrant children sleeping on floor mats, and in some cases on the floor, in cramped spaces with little or no room to move or walk. Groups of lawmakers have expressed extreme concern for the health and wellbeing of the children, and Republican lawmakers have criticized the administration’s immigration policies and actions that they say had caused the humanitarian crisis.
Upon taking office, President Joe Biden reversed several Trump-era immigration policies, including his predecessor’s key Migrant Protection Protocol, which sought to end the problematic Obama-era “catch and release” system that is credited for significantly stemming the flow of illegal immigration in 2019.
Biden also tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration’s effort in curbing the flow of migrants, saying that she is the “most qualified” person to handle the task, as he trusted her to speak for him on the issue. The White House said Harris is currently only focusing her efforts to address the “root causes” of migration, “not the border.”
The administration is also seeking to build capacity for 13,500 beds, with the potential for additional capacity in order to meet what has been a continuous flow of unaccompanied minors coming across the border. In the past week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has opened numerous new emergency holding facilities for accompanied minors in Texas.