Immigrant children and families are heading north to the U.S.-Mexico border in increasing numbers after a lull, signaling the possibility of a fresh humanitarian crisis and an early challenge for the Biden administration. The flow of migrants seeking asylum slowed in the past year after the Trump administration made policy changes that cut off access to the asylum system. The coronavirus pandemic also hindered people from traveling. In October, 4,630 unaccompanied children were taken into custody by border patrol agents, up from 712 in April, while 4,501 migrants traveling as families arrived in October, compared with 716 in April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data show, reports the Wall Street Journal.
During one six-day period in mid-November about 1,000 children were taken into custody. That rise suggests trouble for the Biden administration because it follows a pattern that ended in even bigger surges in past years, such as the child migrant crisis of 2014 or a larger wave of families and unaccompanied youngsters who arrived seeking asylum starting in 2018. “I don’t see any recipe that doesn’t have them as overwhelmed as we were in ’14 and ’18,” said Ron Vitiello, a former border patrol chief who later served as acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director under President Donald Trump. There are several likely causes for the recent increase, including troubled Latin American economies and a pair of hurricanes that battered parts of Honduras and Guatemala. The growing number of children and families has created backups at Border Patrol stations—tight quarters designed to house single adults for hours, rather than children for days. Lawyers representing youths said that almost three dozen children, including six infants, were held longer than the three-day limit allowed under government guidelines.