Brief #117– Immigration

By Kathryn Baron

A Surge of Unaccompanied Children at the US Southern Border

March 22, 2021

Policy Summary

The US is seeing a record-breaking influx of children held in government facilities after crossing the southern border. The amount of unaccompanied children crossing the border has increased 63% so far in 2021 and border facilities are over capacity due to COVID-19 social distance restrictions in addition to the sheer number of children needing accommodations. The US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is currently holding more than 13,000 unaccompanied children in custody. The children’s ages range from toddlers (usually with an older sibling) to teens. Those under 18 are being allowed to enter the US while their claims are processed.

An overwhelming majority are from Guatemala and other Central American countries. The Federal Emergency Management Agency – a government organization that normally handles major crises such as natural disasters – is responding to the situation.



Immigration laws prevent unaccompanied children from being immediately sent away as quickly as adults and/or families. Due to the fact that they are fleeing abuse and/or other harms, they must be given the opportunity to file for asylum upon entering the US. Government agencies are scrambling to find facilities to accommodate the influx of children and place them in humane settings. The Biden Administration also is turning  away adults – predominantly adult males – who try to enter at legal points of entry.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Through the Department of Homeland Security’s website, this link provides additional information regarding the Obama era program.


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