Asylum seeking families and unaccompanied minors from Central America walked towards the U.S. border wall on Wednesday morning (March 17) after crossing the Rio Grande river in Penitas, Texas, where they were met by border patrol agents.
Some 70 asylum seeking migrants were given instructions by the agents as they lined up along the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border after crossing the river on a raft.
Reuters video showed several minors in a line near a U.S. border patrol vehicle after being separated by the agents from their family units, who sat on the sideline.
The United States is facing the biggest surge of migrants at its southwestern border in 20 years, the homeland security secretary said on Tuesday (March 16) as the Biden administration races to handle an influx of children trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border alone.
The number of attempted border crossings by people from Central America and Mexico has steadily increased since April 2020 and most single adults and families are being turned away, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
Poverty, violence and corruption in the Mexico and the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – have led people to seek a better life in the United States for years, and there have been surges in the past.
Conditions there have continued to deteriorate and two hurricanes made living conditions even worse, while the coronavirus pandemic complicated the border situation, Mayorkas said.
U.S. border agents conducted 100,441 apprehensions or expulsions of migrants at the border with Mexico in February, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last week, the highest monthly total since a border crisis of 2019.
Single adults make up the majority of people who are being expelled, Mayorkas said. Children traveling alone, some as young as six years old, are not being turned back.
The government is creating a joint processing center to transfer the children promptly into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is trying to find additional shelters for them, Mayorkas said in a statement.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been struggling to speed up the processing of hundreds of youths under 18 who are crossing the southern border alone every day.
Republicans in Congress say the Biden administration sparked the border surge by promising to unwind some of former President Donald Trump’s hardline policies against illegal immigration.
Nearly 4,300 unaccompanied children were being held by Border Patrol officials as of Sunday (March 14), according to an agency official who requested anonymity. By law, the children should be transferred out of Customs and Border Protection facilities to HHS-run shelters within 72 hours.
In the short term, the federal government is setting up additional facilities in Texas and Arizona to shelter unaccompanied children and families, and is working with Mexico to increase its capacity to receive expelled families, Mayorkas said.
(Production: Adrees Latif / Mana Rabiee)