President Joe Biden‘s administration faces logistical and humanitarian struggle at the border with the crush of childhood arrivals tripling in a mere two-week period.
The influx comes as the administration continues to urge people not to send unaccompanied children across the border, as a wave of immigrants appears to be drawn by Biden’s pledge to relax restrictions and provide a path to citizenship for people who are already living here.
More than 3,250 unaccompanied minors are currently being held at the border. Lacking sufficient facilities and amid coronavirus burdens, more than 1,360 have been detained beyond the three days allowed by law, according to New York Times data.
Intensive care tents sit in a row at a Influx Care Facility (ICF) for unaccompanied children on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021 in Carrizo Springs, TX. More than 3,250 unaccompanied minors are currently being held at the border according to government data
The number tripled over a two-week period.
Nearly 170 of those being detained are younger than 13, NBC News reported. A total of 9,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in February, according to data reviewed by the network.
Due to issues obtaining facilities, many are held in Customs and Border Protection holding cells known as iceboxes or ‘hieleras,’ according to the network. They have concrete rooms and metal benches but do not have beds.
Shelters are within two weeks of surpassing their occupancy, according to the latest data.
Amid the crush, Health and Human Services Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has asked his agency for volunteers to assist with the ‘overwhelming’ number of migrants.
‘Today, I activated the Volunteer Force to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as they face a surge in migration along the Southwest Border,’ Mayorkas said in a staff email, Fox News reported.
More than 3,250 unaccompanied minors are currently being held at the border, as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to establish an ‘orderly’ and ‘humane’ immigration system for childhood arrivals
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has cautioned people not to send unaccompanied children on the dangerous journey
A U.S. Border Patrol agent delivers a young asylum seeker and her family to a bus station on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. U.S. immigration authorities are now releasing many asylum seeking families after detaining them while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The immigrant families are then free to travel to destinations throughout the U.S. while awaiting asylum hearings
Text books and notebooks line tables inside a classroom at a Influx Care Facility (ICF) for unaccompanied children on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021 in Carrizo Springs, TX. The facility has dorm like rooms with areas for eating, bathing, and even hair cuts and laundry
‘You have likely seen the news about the overwhelming numbers of migrants seeking access to this country along the Southwest Border,’ he continued. ‘President Biden and I are committed to ensuring our Nation has a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system while continuing to balance all of the other critical DHS missions.’
The influx has caused holding facilities to become overburdened, and follows searing criticism of the Trump administration for its treatment of unaccompanied children and other migrants at the border amid its ‘zero tolerance’ policy.
Amid the crush, the administration on Friday reopened the Carrizo Springs, Texas tent facility shuttered by the Trump administration in 2019. It is to hold 700 children between 13 and 17 years old.
Customs and Border Patrol data on unaccompanied children through January show a 64 per cent increase compared to this time last year.
In certain sectors, the jump is even more dramatic. At the Big Ben sector in Texas, it is 141 per cent; at Del Rio in Texas it is 122 per cent.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month the Carrizo Springs facility was the ‘most humane’ option compared to sending children on a treacherous path home.
‘This is a difficult choice but that’s one that we felt was the right one, the most humane one,’ she said.
The children are being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities but by law must be quickly transferred to HHS care.
HHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a White House early this month: ‘We are not saying, “Don’t come.” We are saying, “Don’t come now because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible.” At the time he called the situation a challenge but declined to call it a ‘crisis.’