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What’s happening at the border?

An increase in migrants-especially unaccompanied minors- arriving at the border has many Americans concerned about the children’s welfare and their safe and orderly processing by immigration services. 

Today, we’ll (briefly) answer 4 major questions about what is happening at the southern border.

Question 1: Why do people leave their homes to attempt entry to the United States? Why not stay home?

Rates of violence in the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) are still among the highest in the world. Gang violence is a serious problem for children especially, and poses a difficult question for parents -do I stay and hope that gangs don’t forcibly recruit my son as a member or my daughter as a “girlfriend”? Or do I flee before my children are old enough for gangs to notice? Hurricanes in the fall of 2020 also devastated many parts of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize. 

Human trafficking has increased around the world. This can mean that more people are being trafficked across borders, but also that people are leaving their home country in an attempt to escape from situations that lead to trafficking.  

Question 2: Why has there been an increase in migrants at the border lately?

You may have heard a number of narratives trying to explain what’s happening at the border, either stating that this is the worst influx we have had at the border in over 15 years, while others state that this increase in asylum seekers at the border is nothing unexpected, based on the circumstances.

Here’s some of the different aspects about what’s going on:

  1. Kids are being held in detention centers for longer than the legal limit of 10 days. This means more time separated from family members in the U.S. that they are often trying to reunite with. Increased numbers of children and lack of infrastructure and staff have created a backlog of cases.

  2. There are more people than usual, but it is generally part of a predictable pattern, not a completely unusual “surge”, as some news reports have presented it. Especially considering that there is a backlog: both from delayed travel due to COVID-19 restrictions (another factor that was predictable) and backlog from migrants who have been waiting in Mexico under the Remain in Mexico policy. The only truly noteworthy increase is in the number of unaccompanied minors

  3. Immigration experts indicate that root causes (“push” factors) in other countries are “the highest they’ve been in quite some time”-a strong force in driving people to the U.S. While “pull” factors, such as the change of administration, may be a factor, it’s important to note that the Biden administration has stated that the border is not open in multiple instances

Question 3: Why are children, in particular, showing up at the border in increased numbers?

Children are showing up in higher numbers for all of the reasons listed above. Some children come to the border in hopes of being reunited with a family member in the United States. Children may come alone, with siblings or other family members, or with a smuggler. A significant factor driving an increase of children at the border is that Title 42 is not being used to expel unaccompanied minors anymore. Because of this, some children or their families choose to have children make the last part of the trip alone, since families are still likely to be expelled under Title 42.

Question 4: Why won’t people come in “the legal way?”

Many assume that migrants must initiate immigration processing before arriving in the U.S., and that anything other than this is illegal. However, seeking asylum at the border is actually completely legal under U.S. law. In fact, U.S. law requires asylum seekers to be within the U.S. to request asylum. Check out this link for more details.

Knowing that children at the border are in dire need of peace and safety, there are some ways you can help.

  1. Donate to organizations that directly support unaccompanied children. They supply unaccompanied children with food, backpacks, clothing, etc.

  2. Apply to be a foster parent with a refugee organization near you. Right now, Bethany Christian Services is in dire need of temporary foster families for children who are waiting to be connected with family in the United States. 

  3. Advocate for legislative changes that will address root causes of migration and prioritize smart and humane border management.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash


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