Biden Faces Challenge as Number of Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Arriving at U.S. Border Rises in Recent Months

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas looks on as President Joe Biden signs an executive order on immigration, in the Oval Office of the White House, Feb. 2, 2021, in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

The number of unaccompanied immigrant minors arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico is on a steep rise, posing an early challenge to ambitious plans by President Joe Biden to loosen immigration rules.

The number of unaccompanied minors referred to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency tasked with caring for them once they cross the border, climbed from 1,530 in October to 3,364 in December – a 120% jump, according to agency statistics released this week. January’s numbers were not yet available.

The agency usually has 13,764 beds for the minors but only 7,971 are currently available because of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. Of those, around 5,200 are occupied, leaving 2,700 open beds, according to the resettlement agency.

“It’s really critical that the Biden administration live up to their commitment of fair and humane treatment of immigrants at the border,” said Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, a legal advocacy group that represents immigrant youth.

“We’re more than capable of surging resources to the border to humanely and fairly process these children without sending them to influx facilities or allow them to languish in (border patrol) facilities,” she said.

In a slew of executive orders and memoranda, Biden has begun to reverse many of the hardline immigration policies of former President Donald Trump, including forming a task force to try to reunify families separated at the border under the previous administration and vowing to halt the quick deportations of minors.

But as more immigrants are allowed to stay, where to temporarily house them – especially children who show up at the border alone – is becoming a looming question.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Rick Jervis

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