Unaccompanied minors have arrived in record numbers since President Joe Biden took office, and Republican leaders in border states have been quick to highlight the challenges the federal government is facing.
Governor Greg Abbott hammered the Biden administration on border issues in March. First, he accused the government of “reckless border policies” that released migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 to the US. In recent weeks, the governor has been focusing on the surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border.
On March 30, Abbott claimed in a tweet that “twice as many children under Biden are in border protection as Trump Peak in 2019.”
“The Biden Admin. Is unprepared for the crises they are creating,” continued Abbott, adding that State Police and National Guard were deployed to help with the situation.
2019 was the last year border authorities saw an increase in migrant children and family crossings. And the authorities believe that the number of encounters this year will exceed the level then.
But is it true that the number of unaccompanied minors in federal detention today is already double the number recorded in 2019 under former President Donald Trump?
“Numbers will pile up”
Abbott’s claim cited an article published Tuesday by the Washington Examiner, a conservative news site in Washington, DC. Citing “federal data collected solely on Monday evening,” the website reported the same claim.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed the numbers. Under Trump, the government recorded a high of 2,600 unaccompanied minors in federal detention in June 2019. In 2020, the Trump administration stopped detaining minors after introducing a policy that would immediately expel all cross-border commuters, including children, citing COVID. 19 Precautions.
The Biden administration suspended this policy on children in January, and now allows children crossing the border alone to stay in the US while waiting for an immigration court.
US Customs and Border Protection also published a daily memo on PolitiFact detailing the number of unaccompanied children in government detention. 5,160 unaccompanied children were in custody as of March 29, almost double the number recorded in June 2019.
The memo also reported that an average of 492 unaccompanied children were taken into federal detention each day in March, while an average of 399 were released daily.
With facility uptake steadily outperforming production, “these numbers are obviously going to pile up,” a senior US Customs and Border Protection official told reporters during a March 26 briefing.
Migrant children can be detained in border guards for a maximum of 72 hours, a rule set out in the 2008 Re-Authorization of Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking Act. From there, children are referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the US Department of Health Services, which have the task of looking after the minors and connecting them with suitable sponsors.
However, the stress on the system from the high number of migrant children has resulted in many minors being detained in Border Patrol facilities beyond the 72-hour limit. (The Trump administration also struggled following this limit.) For example, as of March 30, more than 2,000 children detained at a Border Patrol facility in Donna had been there for more than 72 hours, according to Pro Publica.
“We need to better ensure that HHS and ORR have greater capacity and we need to accelerate the transfer of these children from our custody to their custody much faster,” said the border guard.
The Biden government has made efforts to increase the capacity of the Refugee Resettlement Office to remove the bottleneck in the border guards. The agency has activated or opened so-called inflow care facilities, which are unlicensed care facilities that offer excess shelter and can be set up in a few weeks, as well as emergency room facilities, which are new facilities that act as way stations for unaccompanied people Serving Children According to the US Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, custody is shifting from border police to custody of refugee resettlement.
Many of these new or makeshift shelters have opened across Texas. Inflow supply facilities are now in place in Carrizo Springs and Pecos. Emergency rooms were opened at a convention center in Dallas and a former oil workers’ camp in Midland.
According to experts, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact factors that are causing the number of unaccompanied children to double today.
Immigration experts often divide drivers of migration into two categories: push factors or the conditions in the countries of origin that cause people to leave their homes; and pull factors or the conditions of a destination country that make it a more attractive place to live.
US immigration policy is often cited as a major pull factor, and Biden, who eases that policy after Trump’s immigration austerity measures, is often cited as a major factor.
However, many experts say that it is the push factors in the home countries of migrants that are driving migration to the US so much. In 2019, Honduras struggled with civil unrest and an increase in gang violence, while Guatemalans grappled with environmental issues that were affecting the food security of the population.
This year, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua suffered two Category 4 hurricanes that hit the region within two weeks. With millions of people still in need of help, the hurricanes exacerbated poverty and worsened access to clean water, adding an extra boost to people considering migrating north.
“The hurricanes made a huge difference,” said Yael Schacher, senior US attorney at Refugees International. “People were in a situation they just got through and then the hurricane wiped them out.”
Abbott said in a tweet that twice as many unaccompanied children are currently in border control detention than during the peak in 2019 under Trump.
Figures from US Customs and Border Protection confirm this claim. The Trump administration recorded 2,600 minors in border protection custody in June 2019. This was the highest amount recorded during Trump’s tenure.
As of March 29, 5,160 minors were in border custody waiting to be transferred to the Refugee Resettlement Office, which has 40 minors less than 2,600 minors twice.
We consider this claim to be true.
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