NW Immigrant Rights director explains record number of unaccompanied children at US border

Mar 10, 2021, 5:29 PM
border wall, unaccompanied children...
In this Dec. 22, 2018, file photo, Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, Calif, right, are seen separated by the U.S. border fence. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)
(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)

There has been a record number of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border, with approximately 3,200 kids in the custody of border patrol. What is going to happen to these children, and what has changed since President Biden took office?

“In some ways, I think things are getting better. But it might not seem that way because what had been happening during the Trump administration has been that the administration had completely blocked access to the asylum process to families and children,” Jorge Baron, director of the NW Immigrant Rights Project told the Gee and Ursula Show.

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“So a lot of those folks had actually been kept on the Mexican side of the border, of the southern border, and were in really bad conditions there,” he explained. “What actually happened since the Biden administration took office is that they’re restarting the process of allowing people to come in to seek protection here in the U.S., which is actually required by U.S. law. And so we’re seeing an increase now in the numbers, but I think that is mostly a sign of just what I would call maybe the pent up demand that had been building for many months, and really over a year during the last period of the Trump administration.”

As Ursula asked, there is clearly not enough space for these children, so what is happening to them? And are they also being held in similar conditions as during the Trump administration?

“Well, I think this is a challenge because when it comes to unaccompanied children — border patrol or the immigration agencies at the border find unaccompanied children, they can’t simply release them without ensuring that they’re going to be in a proper place. So I think we need to understand that when it comes to children, the rules are going to have to be different for them,” Baron responded.

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“I think what we saw during the Trump administration was that there was both an attempt to separate children from their parents, and make them unaccompanied, which is one of the most egregious things that we saw during the administration. Obviously, that’s not happening anymore,” Baron said. “But the other thing that we saw was that they were not placing children with families in the interior of the U.S.”

Baron says in many cases, these children have relatives in the United States and are ideally supposed to be reunified with them as soon as possible.

“So what’s supposed to happen is that children who are identified there, the vast majority of them, have family members, relatives that they were coming to reunify with here in the U.S. And so I think the key thing is to make that process happen as quickly as possible so that children do not spend any more time than they need to in any kind of shelter facilities before they get placed,” he said.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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NW Immigrant Rights director explains record number of unaccompanied children at US border