Youngster border crossings surging, straining US amenities –

WASHINGTON (AP) – A flood of migrants on the southwest border puts the Biden government on the defensive. The Homeland Security chief acknowledges the depth of the problem but insists it is under control and says he will not revive a Trump-era practice of evicting teenagers and children right away.

The number of migrants stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border has risen since last April, and the government continues to expel most single adults and families quickly after President Donald Trump started the COVID-19 crisis. Pandemic had issued a public health order. But it allows teenagers and children to stay, at least temporarily, and they have come in increasing numbers.

More than 4,000 migrant children were detained by border police on Sunday, including at least 3,000 in custody longer than the 72-hour limit set by a court order, according to a US official. According to a second official, the agency added another 561 on Monday, double the previous average. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity about not yet publicly published figures.

It has placed President Joe Biden in a difficult position that has been demolished by Republicans for encouraging illegal cross-border commuters and by some Democrats for continuing to detain minors. It is also challenging his efforts to overhaul the broader Trump policy aimed at restricting both legal and illegal immigration.

“The situation on the south-western border is difficult,” admitted the Minister for Internal Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, in his most extensive remarks on the subject to date. “We are working on it around the clock and will continue to do so. This is our job. “

The number of migrants trying to cross the border is at its highest level since March 2019, and Mayorkas warns of hitting a 20-year high.

The number of children cruising alone, mostly from Central America, appears to be increasing, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas. The Border Patrol picked up 280 there on Monday alone.

The total of 561 unaccompanied minors as of Monday provide an overview of how quickly the conditions along the border have changed. That was a 60% increase from the daily average in February, one of the officials said. In May 2019, during the last climb, the one-day high was 370 teenagers and children.

Children and teens crossing alone rose 60% from that January to more than 9,400 in February. This is evident from the latest statistics published publicly by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Department of Health and Human Services plans to open shelters at Moffett Federal Airfield near San Francisco and in Pecos, Texas to tackle the river. There are also plans to expand a facility in Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley to 2,000.

The Dallas Convention Center is scheduled to accept children on Wednesday and is expected to accommodate up to 3,000 people. Another makeshift holding center in Midland, Texas, which opened last weekend for 700 children, had 485 as of Monday.

Part of the increase in adults can be attributed to people repeatedly caught after being expelled under the public health regulation passed last year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Other factors are economic upheaval due to the pandemic and the recent hurricanes that worsened living conditions in Central America. Officials say it is also likely that smugglers encouraged people to try to get under the new government.

Mayorkas said the spike in child numbers is challenging the Border Patrol and other authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic. But he rejected a Trump-era policy of immediately sending it back to Mexico or other countries.

“They are vulnerable children and we have ended the previous government’s deportation practice,” he said.

Although there has been a wave of migrants, including under Trump, Republicans in Congress say Biden’s support for new immigration laws and his decision to allow people to file legal asylum applications has become a magnet for migrants.

At a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on Tuesday, Senator Jim Inhofe held up a photo of a small crowd of protesters in Tijuana, Mexico, wearing matching T-shirts that read, “Biden, let’s come in,” posted on social media have been widespread in the past few days.

“They all come over the border, they come fast, and they wear Biden T-shirts,” said the Oklahoma Republican.

Kevin McCarthy, chairman of the minority House of Representatives, led a delegation of a dozen Republican lawmakers to the Texas border on Monday, accusing the Biden administration of increasing the number of migrants through measures that halt border walls and legislate in the Support Congress, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people who are now in the country.

“The sad thing about all of this is that it didn’t have to happen. This crisis was caused by the presidential policy of this new administration, ”said McCarthy.

Biden pushed back in a Tuesday interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, noting previous surges under Trump, and pointing out that his administration has tried to prevent people from crossing while it works to restore an asylum system that was undermined by his predecessor. “I heard the other day that they were coming because they know I’m a nice guy. Yes, here is the deal. You are not.”

Trump faced a similar surge in 2019 when he rushed to expand the border wall system along the border, forcing asylum seekers to do so in Central America or to stay in Mexico. A year earlier, he forcibly separated migrant children from their families as part of a zero tolerance campaign that became one of the greatest political challenges facing his administration.

The Biden government allows migrants under the age of 18 who are self-crossing to stay in the country, while the government decides whether they have legal entitlement to residence, either under asylum law or for some other reason.

Mayorkas found that 80% of minors, most of whom are from the three countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America, have relatives in the United States and 40% have parents. “These are children who are reunited with their families and take care of them,” he said.

The Biden administration ended a Trump policy last week that relatives were reluctant to contact HHS to bring children for fear of being deported themselves.

In addition to setting up new temporary facilities to house migrant children, it is also helping Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to try to stem the flow of migrants at the source.

Mayorkas stole from the previous government for dismantling an asylum system that would have made a more “orderly” immigration process possible, cut aid to Central America and not vaccinate border guards.

He also said the Biden government was working to shorten the asylum process and make it possible to petitions from an applicant’s home country rather than going on a dangerous and unsafe journey. “We have no illusions about how hard it is,” he said, “and we know it will take time.”


Spagat reported from San Diego. Associate press writers Ron Nixon and Colleen Long contributed to this report.

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