Thousands of Central American migrants, many of them unaccompanied children, have been streaming across the southern border in recent days, overwhelming government agents.
Many of those trying to cross the border had been told by Mexican officials that they would be able to enter the US. In one camp on the Mexican side of the border, which had been set up two years ago, some asylum seekers were told that may reopen their cases and they would eventually be able to enter the US to wait out the asylum process, according to a CBS report.
Mexican authorities have long tried to close the improvised camps that have been set up by migrants attempting to cross into the US.
The new influx is largely due to instability and spiraling COVID-19 infection rates in Central American countries as well as perceptions of a shift in immigration rules under the Biden administration, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
Last week, Border Patrol agents reported 350 children crossing into the US per day without their parents — more than quadruple the number from last fall, according to reports.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency that works to house the unaccompanied minors, said they have been processing an average of 337 children per day. In January, the agency’s shelters saw more than 4,000 unaccompanied minors arrive in the US, a 19 percent increase since December, according to the CBS report. That figure is the highest that that the agency has recorded in a February. In February 2019, the agency recorded nearly 5,900 minors, according to CBS.
Unaccompanied children have to be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services. There are currently 7,700 unaccompanied minors under the care of HHS, which opened an overflow shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas for children between the ages of 13 and 17 earlier this year. The agency is also conducting a “site survey” at a military barracks in Fort Lee, Virginia to find other overflow temporary housing, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
In the past, overflow facilities have been operating under limited capacity due to the coronavirus, but on Friday the Biden administration notified HHS that they can reopen facilities to pre-pandemic levels, an indication that the surge is likely to rise, according to a CNN report last week.