US Reports a Surge of Kids, Families at Border

Republicans are using the increase to attack President Biden
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 10, 2021 6:46 PM CST
US Reports a Surge of Kids, Families at Border
National Security Council Coordinator for U.S. Southern Border Roberta Jacobson speaks at a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The number of migrant children and families seeking to cross the US southwest border has surged to levels not seen since before the pandemic, a challenge for President Biden as he works to undo the restrictive immigration policies of his predecessor, the AP reports. Statistics released Wednesday by US Customs and Border Protection showed the number of children and families increased by more than 100% between January and February. Kids crossing by themselves rose 60% to more than 9,400, forcing the government to look for new places to hold them temporarily. The surge has been seized on by Republicans and former President Donald Trump as a line of attack on Biden, though his administration is turning back nearly all single adults, who make up the majority of border-crossers, under a public health order imposed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden administration is temporarily holding children and families, mostly from Central America, for several days.

They are generally then allowed to enter the US while authorities evaluate their claims to asylum or see if they have any other legal right to stay in the country. It is a challenge for an administration that has been working to restore an asylum system largely dismantled under Trump and likely to face increasing pressure. Factors driving the increase include widespread hunger in Central America due to recent hurricanes, the economic upheaval of the pandemic, and more fundamental social problems dating back years. Overall encounters have been increasing steadily since April 2020, soon after Mexico and the US agreed to close the official border crossings to all but essential traffic because of the pandemic. There were nearly 29,000 families or unaccompanied minors combined in February. The last time it was higher was in October 2019. The total number of people encountered by CBP was just up 28% from January, but many of them are migrants who were recently turned back and are trying again.

(More migrants stories.)

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