The U.S. border is seeing a surge of children and teenagers crossing alone. In Fiscal Year 2021 through February, there have been 29,792 unaccompanied minors encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Southwest Border. Of those, 5,704 have been at the Tucson and Yuma sectors.
The new data released by CBP shows that just in February, there were 1,750 apprehensions of unaccompanied minors in Arizona.
So, where are those children being held and for how long?
ABC15 requested CBP to provide us with the average time these children spend in Border Patrol facilities but have yet to receive a response. However, we did speak to Art Del Cueto, a Border Patrol agent and current vice president of the National Border Patrol Council.
Disclaimer: Del Cueto is a known supporter of Republican candidates like former senator Martha McSally and former president Trump.
“Some of the problems are that detention facilities can’t hold too many individuals in certain areas, so we’re having to send them out to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and then ICE I believe is sending them out to different groups and they’re in charge of finding their family members somebody within the United States,” said Del Cueto.
According to the latest report by CBP, the largest number of minors are coming from Guatemala and Mexico. Just like “Andres” whose identity is being protected for safety purposes.
“I ran away from Mexico because I suffered a lot of trauma. My stepfather brutally attacked me. I thought I was going to die. It was a miracle that I was able to escape,” said Andres.
Andres says he was 17-years-old when he escaped child abuse in Mexico in 2018. After being apprehended at the border, he says he was transferred to one of the Southwest Key shelters for migrants in Phoenix.
He was later reunified with his uncles in Phoenix.
“Even though I was sad to be in there, the shelter provided me with help from social workers. I could go to them whenever I was sad. The social workers and my uncles in Phoenix saved me from hell in Mexico.
Andres qualified for asylum, he now has his own apartment, he just bought his first car and is planning to go to college.
“I’m saving money to go to school full time and only work part-time,” expressed Andres.
But for some people like Cristina Junge, a Phoenix resident, allowing migrants like Andres to stay, only impacts the U.S. economy.
“At this moment, when there are so many people without jobs, why should we be bringing more people? Many of them are not qualified to take away the jobs of the people who are citizens of this country and who haven’t been able to take these jobs,” stated Junge.
Andres says everyone deserves an opportunity to be able to work and have a better life, “at the end of the day we’re all human beings.”
According to CNN, Federal officials are now looking at a temporary shelter site at a NASA facility in Northern California.
So, is there a crisis at the U.S. border?
“I know people are hung up on the word crisis, so hey let’s say we admit there’s a crisis, but I think the big question is individuals that are running the agency per se, leadership within the agencies that have seen this, what steps they have taken knowing that these things can happen again,” stated Del Cueto.
The migrants and unaccompanied minors have arrived no matter who was in the White House. Presidents Obama, Trump, and now Biden have each fumbled the response. As far as a permanent resolution - like a revamp of immigration policies - doesn't appear to be coming any time soon.