/A Surge of Children Crossing the Border: What Happens to Them?

A Surge of Children Crossing the Border: What Happens to Them?

The number of migrants illegally crossing the southern border is reaching a 20-year high, with the number of unaccompanied children increasing 63% last month, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The figures have accelerated under the Biden administration, and the influx continues to strain government resources and threatens to push border facilities over capacity with children. The increase has been seen in not only the number of unaccompanied child migrants but also the number of family units, which include adults traveling with children.

Migrants detained at the Mexican border

Child migrants range in age from toddlers to teenagers, the youngest often traveling with older siblings or other relatives who are typically also under 18. Most children who cross the border are male, and they typically arrive without a parent or legal guardian. Nearly half of all unaccompanied children in 2020 arrived from Guatemala, up from about a third in 2012.

Percentage of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S.

Percentage of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S.

Percentage of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S.

Percentage of unaccompanied minors

arriving in the U.S.

Under immigration law, the government can’t deport children as quickly as individual adults and families. Most families and single adults are sent back to Mexico as a result of regulations put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Because there is a chance that children may have been trafficked or fled an abusive parent, they must be given the opportunity to apply for asylum after illegally crossing the border and can’t be automatically deported. About 80% of the minors have relatives in the U.S. and 40% have a parent, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Shelters for children had been operating at reduced capacity because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but officials have begun reducing some of the social-distancing measures

The process for children who cross the border

Children are taken to Border Patrol stations where they are given a medical screening and agents work to identify them. They await shelter availability, many of which are

overcrowded.

Expected wait: 72 hours but it’s often longer

Children are transferred to shelters that are licensed to care for children.

A family member or friend is identified as a potential

sponsor

Children can be placed with other vetted sponsors, akin to a foster family.

In rare cases, children can be held until they are 18 and then face deportation.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement identifies and vets a sponsor. The child is released to them while they await court proceedings.

Children are taken to Border Patrol stations where they are given a

medical screening and agents work to identify them. They await shelter availability, many of which are

overcrowded.

Expected wait: 72 hours but it’s often longer

Children are transferred to shelters that are licensed to care for children.

A family member or friend is identified as a potential

sponsor

Children can be placed with other vetted sponsors, akin to a foster family.

In rare cases, children can be held until they are 18 and then face deportation.

The Office of Refugee

Resettlement identifies and vets a sponsor. The child is released to them while they await court proceedings.

Children are taken to Border Patrol stations where they are given a

medical screening and agents work to identify them. They await shelter availability, many of which are

overcrowded.

Expected wait: 72 hours but it’s often longer

Children are transferred to shelters that are licensed to care for children.

A family member or friend is identified as a potential

sponsor

Children can be placed with other vetted sponsors, akin to a foster family.

In rare cases, children can be held until they are 18 and then face deportation.

The Office of Refugee

Resettlement identifies and vets a sponsor. The child is released to them while they await court proceedings.

Children are taken to Border Patrol stations where they are given a

medical screening and agents work to identify them. They await shelter availability, many of which are

overcrowded.

Expected wait: 72 hours but often longer

Children are transferred to shelters that are licensed to care for children.

A family member or friend is identified as a potential

sponsor

Children can be placed with other vetted

sponsors, akin to a foster family.

In rare cases,

children can be held until they are 18 and then be deported.

The Office of Refugee

Resettlement identifies and vets a sponsor.

A large share of unaccompanied children are sponsored by people in urban areas in states with historically large immigrant populations, such as California and Texas. In recent years, many states on the East Coast, including Virginia and Maryland, have taken increasing numbers of unaccompanied children.

Annual average number of unaccompanied children

released to sponsors by state, FY 2015-2020

Total number released

to sponsors by county*,

FY 2015- Jan. 2021

New shelters for unaccompanied minors opened in Midland and Dallas Monday

Harris County, Texas:

16,577 (most)

Annual average number of unaccompanied children

released to sponsors by state, FY 2015-2020

Total number released

to sponsors by county*,

FY 2015- Jan. 2021

New shelters for unaccompanied minors opened in Midland and Dallas Monday

Harris County, Texas:

16,577 (most)

Annual average number of

unaccompanied children released

to sponsors by state, FY 2015-2020

Total number released

to sponsors by county*,

FY 2015- Jan. 2021

New shelters for unaccompanied minors opened in Midland and Dallas Monday

Harris County, Texas:

16,577 (most)

Annual average number of unaccompanied

children released to sponsors by state,

FY 2015-2020

Total number released

to sponsors by county*,

FY 2015- Jan. 2021

Harris County, Texas: 16,577 (most)

Immigration Challenge for Biden Administration

As the Biden administration grapples with a surge in migrants crossing the southern border illegally, it faces a strategic choice in how it will approach broader immigration reform. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo illustration: Ang Li

Write to Max Rust at max.rust@dowjones.com and Maureen Linke at Maureen.Linke@wsj.com

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