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Record numbers of youth reach U.S. southern border

Unaccompanied migrants, ages 3 to 9, at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Donna, Texas Associated Press/Photo by Dario Lopez-Mills (file)

Record numbers of youth reach U.S. southern border

Between December 2020 and February 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection saw an 89 percent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing from Mexico, according to a recent report from two court-appointed monitors. In March, Border Patrol agents encountered 18,663 unaccompanied children—significantly more than the previous record of 11,475 in May 2019 and more than five times the number from March 2020. A November hurricane in Central America likely drove many families from their homes, and President Joe Biden’s immigration policy changes—both real and rumored—are drawing more people to the border.

What happens to the children when they arrive? Under pandemic protocols, the Biden administration continues to expel migrants who cross the border, but it is allowing unaccompanied minors and families with children age 6 and younger to pursue asylum in the United States. This has led some parents to send their children across the border alone, where they stay in overcrowded detention centers before moving in with sponsors or foster families.

Dig deeper: Read Sophia Lee’s report in WORLD Magazine on the situation at the border.

Charissa Koh

Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty-fighting and criminal justice. She resides with her family in Atlanta.


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