Lucy Nicholson

A group of Central American migrants is questioned about their children’s health after surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol Agents south of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in El Paso, Texas, U.S., March 6, 2019.

Phillip Kao-Johnson, Reporter

Small feet shuffle around the US-Mexico border. Teenagers and children advance towards the southern political boundary, anxious for asylum. With the sudden influx of refugees, there has been a sharp decline in the US government’s ability to house and transport immigrants.

President Joe Biden stated that “nothing has changed” in reference to prior years when immigration surged. While it is true migrant numbers increase as the weather warms, the influx of unaccompanied children along the US-Mexico border is the highest it’s been since 2014. Border Patrol officials are on track to set a new record this month, taking in more than 17,000 minors, a larger number than they have in the past two decades.

There are many reasons why desperate parents are sending their children to seek refuge. One could be the increase in natural disasters, such as the bombardment of hurricanes Honduras faced last year, while another is the loosening of regulations on immigration and asylum under the Biden administration. 

Biden plans to build a more humane immigration system and recently changed the terminology from “illegal alien” to “undocumented noncitizen.” Along with these changes in vocabulary comes a change in who ICE can arrest and deport. ICE agents have been told to prioritize threats to national security when deciding who to detain. Biden announced a bill that would provide a way for the some 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States to gain citizenship, accompanied by an expedited process for child immigrants to earn their rights.

Even with the changes made to immigration, the process is slow. Some children have been waiting for weeks to be transported to their US based parents. It takes an average of 33 days to release the children to immediate family members, and about 40% of the children waiting at the border have at least one parent living in the states already. The long wait times are exacerbated by poor living conditions.

Currently, Biden is spending at least $60 million per week to house migrant children, and yet, the children are still not provided with adequate access to soap and food. Foil emergency blankets and plastic mattresses on the concrete floor are what they are forced to call home for now.