migrant crisis
July 24, 2019

"An unprecedented number of unaccompanied migrant children are at risk of spending the rest of their childhoods in federal custody," CBS News reported Tuesday evening, citing an interview with the head of the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and a tour of an ORR detention center outside Brownsville, Texas. At least one migrant child has been in U.S. custody going on four years, CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez reports.

More than 4,000 of the 10,100 "unaccompanied" children currently in ORR custody have been designated Category 4 cases, meaning they have no identified sponsor to host them in the U.S., ORR director Jonathan Hayes told CBS News in June. If they aren't released to a suitable sponsor by their 18th birthday, the migrant children are handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, usually a precursor to deportation.

The number of Category 4 child migrants has risen sharply under President Trump, and the percentage of children released from ORR custody dropped dramatically in fiscal 2018, agency records show. Former ORR officials said Trump's hardline immigration policies and onerous sponsorship requirements have prevented relatives from stepping up to request custody of the detained children. Ricardo de Anda, a Texas lawyer who successfully sued ORR to allow a Category 4 migrant to go live with a sponsor family, said "the reason children are stacking up in these detention camps is because ORR does not allow qualified American families to take these children in."

Life for children housed at the 168 ORR facilities in 23 states is unstable and sometimes dehumanizing, lawyers and former ORR officials tell CBS News. Under the Flores Agreement, migrant children must be released to suitable sponsors as soon as possible, but due to the uptick in Category 4 designations, "they could be indefinitely in our custody, which is not a healthy situation for children," former ORR Director Bob Carey tells CBS News. "And these children are for the most part already traumatized." Peter Weber

July 9, 2019

Southern border crossings dropped for the first time this year last month, falling 28 percent from May to June, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.

Typically, more people cross during the cooler spring months, with the numbers dipping as it heats up. The Department of Homeland Security said in June, 104,344 undocumented migrants were detained at the southern border, a sharp drop from 144,278 in May. June was still the fourth month in a row with more than 100,000 arrests, and more than double the 43,180 migrants detained in June 2018, The Washington Post reports.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the "reduction in apprehensions accounts for decreases across all demographics, including unaccompanied minors, family units, and single adults, as well as decreases in migrants from all Northern Triangle countries, particularly those coming from Guatemala."

Trump forced out most of the Department of Homeland Security's leaders this spring, and threatened Mexico with tariffs if more wasn't done to combat the flux of migrants; Mexico in turn deployed more national guard troops to its borders. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say there are about 10,000 migrants now in custody, living in detention centers designed to hold half that amount. Lawmakers and attorneys who visited facilities in Texas say the conditions are filthy and children are not receiving adequate food or hygiene products. Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

Several Democrats in the House are struggling with the idea of backing a $4.5 billion emergency aid package, as they want to help detained migrants but worry that the money will somehow be used to carry out President Trump's promised deportation raids.

The House is planning a vote on Tuesday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent Monday evening meeting with Democrats who have issues with the bill, The New York Times reports. Pelosi has said the measure "does not fund the administration's failed mass detention policy" and does not change asylum laws. Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus want to make it clear the money will go to improving facilities where migrant children are being held, especially in the wake of shocking reports of filthy conditions and neglect at a Border Patrol station in Texas.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Monday night said she "will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics," while Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she doesn't trust Trump to follow restrictions in the bill, adding, "He's creating these crises and then trying to point the finger at Democrats to give him more money, which he then uses for his own purposes." Trump enacts "cruel immigration policies," Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said, but "Democrats cannot allow our anger at this president to blind us to the horrific conditions at facilities along the border as the agencies run out of money."

Republicans are opposing the package for different reasons, specifically that the money won't be used to enforce immigration law, the Times reports. The White House said in a statement Monday night that Trump would likely veto the House legislation because it "does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis" and "contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the administration's border enforcement efforts." Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2019

About 250 infants, children, and teenagers have spent up to 27 days at a U.S. Border Patrol station 25 miles outside El Paso, and the children painted a "bleak portrait" in interviews with an outside legal team, The Associated Press reported Thursday. There are three infants in the Clint station, four children 3 and under, dozens under age 12, and 15 children with the flu, 10 of whom are under quarantine, AP says.

One fussy 2-year-old with urine-soaked pants, no diaper, and a mucus-smeared shirt is being cared for by three girls age 10 to 15, after a guard handed him to them days go, AP reports. One of the lawyers also described an 8-year-old caring for a 4-year-old. Many of the children arrived at the border by themselves, but some were separated from their parents or relatives, and they told the attorneys they had gone weeks without bathing or a change of clothes. Border Patrol knew of this visit by the legal team three weeks ago.

"In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity," Holly Cooper, who represents detained youth and co-directs University of California, Davis' Immigration Law Clinic, told AP. Acting Customs and Border Protection head John Sanders acknowledged the poor conditions for detained children but said Congress needed to give CBP more money.

Under government rules, the Border Patrol is supposed to hand children over to the Heath and Human Services Department's Office of Refuge Resettlement within 72 hours.

The apparent lack of adequate food and sanitation aren't unique to this station. At least five children have died after being detained since late last year, a shocked immigrant advocate discovered a teenage mother last week who'd spent more than a week with her premature baby at a Border Patrol facility in Texas, Border Patrol keeps adult migrants in outdoor cages in El Paso, and a federal inspector general's report released this month found deplorable conditions at Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in four states. Peter Weber

May 16, 2019

A 2-year-old Guatemalan boy who crossed into the U.S. with his mother in early April died Tuesday night at a hospital in El Paso, The Washington Post reports, citing a Guatemalan consul and another person. The boy is the fourth minor known to have died after being apprehended at the U.S. border, all of them from Guatemala; two children died in December and a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor died April 30 after suffering a severe brain infection following more than a week in U.S. custody.

Tekandi Paniagua, the consul for Guatemala in Del Rio, Texas, told The Associated Press that the 2-year-old developed a high fever and had difficulty breathing after a few days in Customs and Border Protection custody, and he then spent about a month at a children's hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

A CBP official familiar with the case told the Post that the boy and his mother were picked up April 3 near a border bridge in El Paso, the mother alerted officials that the child was sick on April 6, he was hospitalized, and on April 8, federal officials formally released the family from custody with a "notice to appear" in immigration court, leaving it unclear if the boy was technically in CBP custody when he died. An official told the Post that CBP would inform Congress of the death within 24 hours, as required for deaths in custody.

A record number of migrant families, mostly from Central America, have been crossing the border and turning themselves in, requesting asylum. The numbers have overwhelmed U.S. border officials, and hundreds of migrants have been taken to the hospital, some with conditions they arrived with. Migrant advocates have questioned the Border Patrol's ability to care for the thousands of families in federal custody. Peter Weber

January 20, 2019

About 170 migrants are missing and feared dead after two shipwrecks in the Mediterranean this week.

Three survivors of one wreck rescued by an Italian naval helicopter on Friday said they'd been on a ship with about 120 people which began sinking after leaving Libya Thursday. A 2-month-old baby was among the passengers. Another 53 people who sailed from Morocco are also missing, though at least one person from that boat was rescued.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe's doorstep," said a statement from the United Nations' refugee agency. "No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea." Bonnie Kristian

November 18, 2018

Some of the Central American migrants traveling by caravan across Mexico toward the United States have reached the border city of Tijuana and stalled, uncertain of their next steps. Many have already been denied entry to the U.S. and are considering their alternatives, like accepting Mexico's offer of jobs and basic resettlement assistance.

"If we had work, we would stay. This has been very tiring," Orbelina Orellana, a mother from Honduras, told Reuters. "I cry a lot to not be able to feed them as I’d like," she said of her three children. "I just want an opportunity."

Complicating the decision is a newly hostile attitude toward migrants in Tijuana, which now has a conservative mayor who has argued "human rights should be reserved for righteous humans," a category from which he excludes the caravan migrants. Some Tijuana residents have scuffled with the migrants and plan to rally against their presence in the city Sunday. Bonnie Kristian

September 12, 2018

The U.S. government is detaining a record 12,800 migrant children, and the federal shelter system is close to capacity, The New York Times reports.

The number of detained migrant children is up from 2,400 kids in custody in May 2017. While the Trump administration did separate thousands of children from their parents at the southern border in an attempt to discourage others from entering the country, most of the minors now in custody crossed the border without a parent. There are 100 shelters across the United States, and they are operating at 90 percent capacity, up from 30 percent last year, the Times reports. The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it will triple the size of a temporary tent city in Tornillo, Texas, in order to house up to 3,800 children. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said this kind of facility is three times more expensive to operate than a fixed shelter, costing $750 per child, per day.

Data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services was shared with members of Congress, who passed it along to the Times, and those figures show that fewer kids are being released to live with relatives, family friends, and other sponsors. That's likely because sponsors now have to be fingerprinted, and most are undocumented and would risk being deported. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads