Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
China Daily Global / 2021-03 / 17 / Page001

Migrant surge intensifies in US

By HENG WEILI in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-17 00:00

Unaccompanied children in custody after crossing southern border up 31% from early last week

The surge in migration along the southern border of the United States intensified this week, along with the political debate about the situation.

As of Sunday morning, the US Border Patrol was holding more than 4,200 unaccompanied children in short-term facilities, "including jail-like stations", according to a CBS News report, which cited government records it reviewed.

Nearly 3,000 of the unaccompanied children in Customs and Border Protection custody had been held longer than 72 hours, the report said, adding that the number of unaccompanied children in CBP custody on Sunday was up 31 percent from early in the previous week.

The agency is legally obligated to transfer most unaccompanied minors, within three days of taking them into custody, to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees shelters licensed to house children, CBS reported.

From his first day in office, President Joe Biden has moved to dismantle his predecessor Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policy.

On Jan 20, the day Biden was inaugurated, he ordered a halt to construction of a wall to block illegal immigration on the southwest border. He also changed a program that required migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico, as opposed to the United States.

Biden also restored the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation.

This year has seen a surge in migration, particularly of unaccompanied children, at the border with Mexico.

US authorities arrested or encountered more than 100,000 migrants over the four weeks ending on March 3, the highest level in that time frame in five years, according to data obtained by CNN.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday: "We recognize this is a big problem. The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system, and like any other problem, we're going to do everything we can to solve it."

Psaki has said unaccompanied minors who make it to the border would not be turned away, although about 70 percent of the migrants, mostly single adults, will be.

"One of the issues we've had is that the COVID-19 pandemic initially severely limited the number of children that could be taken into (Health and Human Services) facilities," she said. "We're looking at additional facilities where we can safely house children and ensure they have access to all of these resources."

Many are held in Customs and Border Protection holding cells with concrete rooms and metal benches, but no beds.

On March 5, the Biden administration reopened an emergency influx center for children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, a shelter whose use during the previous administration drew criticism. It will hold 700 children between the ages of 13 and 17.

The Biden administration is also considering use of The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas to house migrants. It is estimated the center could hold 3,000 children.

The administration also is turning to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help with the unaccompanied children. FEMA will work over the next three months to receive, shelter and transfer minor children who arrive alone at the border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Saturday.

As the border situation moved to the forefront of US political debate, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said during a trip to the border city of El Paso, Texas, on Monday, "This is where (Biden) should look the people in the eye. This is where he should talk to the border agents and let them know that this is beyond a crisis."

The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement: "McCarthy is desperately trying to distract Americans from the fact that every single House Republican voted to block a relief bill that delivers vaccines in arms, money in pockets, children back in school safely and people back in jobs."

Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, said on Fox News Sunday, "When people think they can get in, they begin sending their unaccompanied child on a train ride across Mexico, where she may be kidnapped and trafficked, on the hope that they're going to be waved through at the border."

Trump said last week that "illegal immigrants from every corner of the Earth will descend upon our border and never be returned".

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on March 9 that the Texas National Guard will deploy 500 troops to the border to address the surge.

Annie Chen, a financial professional in Houston, told China Daily: "While it's noble to accept refugees and immigrants from other countries, we also need to take stock of the impact on our own country. I do believe that immigrants will bring some benefit to this country, but there are also costs and consequences."

Professor Marisa Cianciarulo, a specialist in immigration law at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law in Orange, California, wrote: "The situation at the border isn't yet and doesn't need to be a crisis. In terms of numbers, child migration at the border is a fraction of a percent of overall yearly immigration to the United States.

"Many of the children arriving at the border either qualify for asylum or are in need of humanitarian aid. They are fleeing desperate conditions of poverty, child abuse, child neglect/abandonment, rape/molestation, gang violence," she added.

The issue is also a concern for politicians whose districts are closest to the border.

"I think what we need is to have a plan in place that doesn't incentivize people to make this very dangerous trek through Mexico, being held hostage by these cartels; they're the ones that are enriching themselves with this very complicated situation… and we're in the middle of a pandemic," US Representative Vicente Gonzalez, one of three Texas Democrats who represent a part of the border most affected by spikes in migrant arrests and arrivals, told CNN on Sunday.

Texas Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar said, "Hey, we don't want the wall, but when it comes to the other issues, (we've) got to be careful that we don't give the impression that we have open borders, because otherwise the numbers are going to start going up. And surely enough, we're starting to see numbers go up."

May Zhou in Houston, Liu Yinmeng in Los Angeles and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Alicia, a migrant from Honduras who is seeking a new life in the United States, embraces her father as she and other migrants await transport after crossing the Rio Grande river on a raft from Mexico to La Joya, Texas, on Sunday. ADREES LATIF/REUTERS



Most Viewed

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349