latest-on-the-us-border-crisis

Latest on the US border crisis

Politics
1 hr 13 min ago

The Biden administration plans to use a Dallas convention center to shelter migrant teenage boys

From CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Ashley Killough, 

In this March 31, 2020, file photo, a sign sits in front of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas.
In this March 31, 2020, file photo, a sign sits in front of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas. Tony Gutierrez/AP

The Biden administration plans to use a convention center in Dallas to hold more than 2,000 migrant teenagers, according to a Department of Homeland Security official and a city memo obtained by CNN.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center would be temporarily used to shelter teenage boys who arrived at the US-Mexico border alone, the official said.

Rocky Vaz, director of the Office of Emergency Management in Dallas, described the facility as a “decompression center” and told city leaders it would house teen boys ages 15 to 17 “to help relieve the overcrowding currently at the border,” according to the memo.

The plans, first reported by The Associated Press, mark the latest attempt by the administration to keep up with the number of unaccompanied children at the US-Mexico border. In the absence of additional shelter space, facilities along the border have been under increased strain.

As of Sunday, there were more than 4,200 children in US Border Patrol custody.

Lawyers who spoke with about a dozen children held in a Border Patrol facility in Texas said kids were terrified, crying and worried about not being able to speak with family members. Some said they hadn’t seen sunlight in days. Others said that if they were lucky, they would go outside for 20 minutes every few days.

Officials have been scrambling to find space to accommodate children and cut down on their time in Border Patrol facilities, which are intended to process adults, not care for children.

HHS recently opened a new emergency intake site in Texas to process the growing number of children crossing the US-Mexico border alone, the department said.

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed reporting to this post.

1 hr 44 min ago

“The border is secure and the border is not open,” Homeland Security secretary says

From CNN’s Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez

A migrant walks amid tents at an improvised camp outside El Chaparral crossing port as he and others wait for US authorities to allow them to start their migration process in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 11.
A migrant walks amid tents at an improvised camp outside El Chaparral crossing port as he and others wait for US authorities to allow them to start their migration process in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 11. Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden discouraged would-be migrants from coming to the United States, telling ABC News on Tuesday, “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come.”

The President continued: “We’re in the process of getting set up. Don’t leave your town or city or community.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas continued that theme in today’s House hearing, saying: “The border is secure and the border is not open” when asked by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to succinctly describe his border policy and moving migrant children to temporary sites.

“We are expelling under the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) public health authority in light of the pandemic. Single individuals who arrive at the border. We are expelling families under that same public health authority, limited only by the capacity of Mexico to receive them,” he added.

Mayorkas said they are not expelling children who are unaccompanied without a parent or a legal guardian and noted that they are “caring for their custody and their sheltering.”

Republicans pushed back on Mayorkas’ characterization of the situation at the border. New York Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the committee, said the situation on the border, where he just visited, continues to “get worse everyday with inadequate action or even proper acknowledgement of the severity of the situation.”

“I can tell you without hesitation that it is indeed a crisis that continues to deepen each and every day,” he said.

2 hr 11 min ago

Homeland Security secretary won’t call border situation a “crisis”

From CNN’s Geneva Sands

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Source: Committee Webstream

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas declined to call the situation along the Southwest border a “crisis” during his first congressional testimony since taking office. 

In response to the top Republican on the committee, Rep. John Katko, Mayorkas said, “I’m not spending any time on the language that we use.”

The use of the word “crisis” has become a sticking point for the administration, as the White House has also declined use the description, sometimes referring to it as a “challenge.”  

Mayorkas later said, “I will share with you how I define a crisis. A crisis is when a nation is willing to rip a 9-year-old child out of the hands of his or her parent and separate that family to deter future migration. That to me is a humanitarian crisis.” 

He said President Biden is committed to ensuring an “immigration system works” and that migration to the US is “safe, orderly and humane.”

Watch:

3 hr 5 min ago

CNN asked immigrants on the border why they’re coming to the US. Here’s what they told us.

From CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Rosa Flores, Ashley Killough and Sara Weisfeldt

Roxana Rivera.
Roxana Rivera. Source: CNN

On the banks of the Rio Grande near the south Texas city of Hildalgo, dozens of undocumented migrants — mostly women and young children — descended a hill on the Mexican side of the border in an orderly procession.

The sun set Thursday over an all-too-familiar portrait of desperation in the the Rio Grande Valley. Some women carried wailing babies while others hauled bags of belongings to the edge of the muddy river, where a group of men awaited them with life vests to take turns crossing from Mexico to the United States. That day alone, authorities said, 2,000 migrants were apprehended in the valley.

“From Honduras,” several migrants shouted at a CNN correspondent who asked where they were from. Some had been traveling for months — fleeing violence, poverty and the destruction wrought by a pair of hurricanes, they said. CNN observed the raft make about half a dozen trips across the river.

“We come for a new opportunity,” said one man, who traveled with his wife and young daughter.

The scene reflects a surge of migrants, particularly children, challenging the new administration of President Biden, who entered office promising to reverse the hardline policies of his predecessor.

Roxana Rivera, 28, said she and her six-year-old daughter left Honduras after back-to-back November hurricanes destroyed her home and everything in it.

Word back home, Rivera said, was that the US was now allowing people with children to freely cross the border — which wasn’t entirely true. She heard that on the news, she said. Relatives in the US relayed the same information. Other migrants had similar stories.

Rivera said she was elated when the group she crossed the border with — mostly mothers and their children — was picked up by border agents. The migrants were processed, then taken to a bus station in Brownsville, Texas, where they were tested for Covid-19 and offered supplies by nonprofits before their release. She planned to stay with relatives in Houston while her immigration case is processed.

“You always dream about living in a house with your children,” said Rivera, becoming emotional. “Now we have nothing … We dream of having a house.”

Rivera said she at times regretted embarking on the long journey north by foot and by train— putting her daughter’s life at risk. Sometimes the girl would ask for food and she had none to offer her. One time, she said, her daughter became dehydrated. Another time she had to seek medical attention in Mexico when her daughter had a fever.

Maria Mendoza, a 30-year-old migrant from El Salvador, appeared exhausted as she arrived in Brownsville after processing by immigration officials. She was hoping to reunite with relatives who live in Maryland, she said through tears.

Mendoza recalled that the raft she and others used on a midnight crossing of the Rio Grande flipped over, sending several mothers and their children into the water. She said there were days when she did not eat so that her 6-year-old daughter would not go hungry. Her daughter remembered evading a snake along the way.

“More than anything I want to be reunited with my family,” she said. “We want to make a life here. A better future for our children.”

Read more here.

3 hr 8 min ago

Here’s how the Homeland Security secretary says he wants to see the immigration system changed

From CNN’s Elise Hammond

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Source: Committee Webstream

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the situation on the southern border cannot be fixed overnight, but it shows why the country needs to rebuild its immigration policies.

“Our primary responsibility is to keep our homeland and the American people safe. We are safer when we take a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to border management, ensuring that policies and procedures at the border are consistent with American values, immigration laws, and regulations,” he said in his written opening statement.

Mayorkas is testifying in front of lawmakers today and he’s expected to be grilled on the surge of migrants being held at the border, causing officials scramble to provide resources for the increase in minors and families.

Here is what Mayorkas says the US needs to do about the current situation:

  1. Address the root of the problem by engaging with governments to alleviate violence and corruption that drives migrants from their homes.
  2. Work with humanitarian organizations to provide protection for migrants as close to home as possible. These are things like refugee resettlement and family reunification programs.
  3. Help other countries in the region improve their asylum capabilities and protect migrants.
  4. Improve the system for processing migrants at the border and get to their asylum claims in a “fair and timely way.”

“While these efforts will dramatically improve migration management in the region and help to restore safe and orderly processing at the border, they will take time, as the President noted. Addressing longstanding challenges after the dismantling of the system cannot be accomplished overnight,” Mayorkas said.

Here is what he wants to change about the immigration system:

  • Provide pathways to citizenship “for hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived in the United States for years, in some cases for decades,” he said.
  • Allow people who are undocumented to apply for temporary legal status, and eventually apply for lawful permanent residency after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.
  • Prioritize keeping families together.
  • Implement protections for workers from being exploited while also ensuring fairness for US workers. Mayorkas said he would also want to see the employment verification process improved.
  • Creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection. 

“We are rebuilding an immigration system that was systematically dismantled during the prior administration. We are making risk-based investments in our border management system to create safe, legal, and humane pathways to asylum and humanitarian protection,” he said.

Watch:

3 hr 29 min ago

Homeland Security secretary calls situation at the border “undoubtedly difficult”

From CNN’s Elise Hammond

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Source: Committee Webstream

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in his written opening statement that the department is facing a variety of problems right now – including the current situation at the border, which he said is “undoubtedly difficult.”

Mayorkas is testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee where he is expected to face questions about the ongoing influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

Mayorkas pointed to the ongoing influx of children, testifying that the department has increased its capacity to hold children until the Department of Health and Human Services can shelter them while it identifies and vets the children’s sponsors. He also pointed to FEMA’s involvement in this effort. 

As of Tuesday, more than 300 unaccompanied migrant children had been in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days, CNN has learned. More than 4,200 minors were in custody, with an average time of 120 hours.

“The Department must do this important work while always remaining faithful to the law, our mission, and our country’s values,” he said in his opening statement.

Here are the areas where Mayorkas said the department is focusing its efforts:

  • Rebuilding the immigration system and securing the US border: “Let me be clear that the Department continues to enforce our immigration laws and responsibly manage our border, while we restore fairness and efficiency in our immigration system, which was systematically dismantled during the last four years,” he said. Mayorkas also gave several ideas on how to rebuild the current system, but emphasized security and facing current security challenges.
  • Covid-19: Mayorkas said DHS is supporting the federal government’s response to the pandemic by assisting with vaccine distribution and administration efforts across the country. He said Transportation Security Administration has been protecting those who are traveling and ICE Homeland Security Investigations has launched operations to protect Americans from Covid-related fraud and criminal activity.
  • Strengthening cybersecurity and infrastructure: “The recent cyber intrusion campaigns affecting federal agencies and private sector organizations are a clarion call to urgently improve our national cybersecurity and resilience,” he said, directly referencing attacks on Microsoft and SolarWinds.
  • Domestic violent extremism: Mayorkas said the most terrorists threats against the US come from “lone offenders and small groups of individuals” who are motivated by a variety of “extreme” beliefs. He pointed to the riot at the US Capitol on January 6 as evidence of this threat.
3 hr 43 min ago

Biden’s DHS secretary is facing lawmakers this morning. Here’s what we know about the hearing. 

From CNN’s Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 1, in Washington.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 1, in Washington. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is testifying before lawmakers this morning in a House committee, where he is expected to face questions about the ongoing influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

His appearance before the House Homeland Security Committee comes as the Biden administration struggles to accommodate the growing number of children crossing the US-Mexico border alone against the backdrop of a pandemic that’s strained resources, particularly shelter space.

“We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” Mayorkas said in a statement Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, more than 300 unaccompanied migrant children had been in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days, CNN has learned. More than 4,200 minors were in custody, with an average time of 120 hours.

Mayorkas, who is testifying on Capitol Hill for the first time since his confirmation, said the situation at the border was “difficult” and acknowledged that children are not being transferred to US Department of Health and Human Services custody within the three-day legal limit.

Some more background: HHS has not had the capacity to take the number of unaccompanied children encountered at the border, he added. Federal law requires unaccompanied children to be turned over within 72 hours to HHS, which oversees a shelter network designed to house minors.

In February, more than 9,400 unaccompanied children — ranging in ages — crossed the US-Mexico border, according to the latest available data from Customs and Border Protection. That’s up from January and is expected to continue trending upward.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden discouraged would-be migrants from coming to the United States, telling ABC, “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come.”

4 hr 16 min ago

What things are like in the Border Patrol facilities where migrant children are held

From CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, 

A U.S. Border Patrol agent delivers a young asylum seeker and his family to a bus station on February 26, in Brownsville, Texas. 
A U.S. Border Patrol agent delivers a young asylum seeker and his family to a bus station on February 26, in Brownsville, Texas.  John Moore/Getty Images

Children are alternating schedules to make space for one another in confined facilities, some kids haven’t seen sunlight in days, and others are taking turns showering, often going days without one.

That’s the reality for the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children held up in US Border Patrol custody for days on end, according to case managers, attorneys and Border Patrol agents.

Bunk beds have been brought in to one of the processing facilities to help accommodate the influx of children. “Some of those are up to three bunks high,” an agent told CNN, adding that children are also sleeping on plastic cots and mats on the floor and benches.

Customs and Border Protection is on pace to encounter more individuals on the border than in the last 20 years, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday, adding that the agency is coming across children as young as six and seven years old.

More than 300 unaccompanied migrant children have been in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days, CNN has learned. More than 4,200 minors are currently in custody, with an average time of 120 hours.

With an increasing number of children crossing the US-Mexico border alone, Border Patrol facilities are where kids have to stay until officials can transfer them to shelters that are appropriate for them. These facilities are designed to care for adults, not kids, and are akin to jail-like facilities with concrete walls and benches.

Children at stations in the Tucson, Arizona, region, for instance, have to be transported from Border Patrol stations to a central coordination center to get showers, the Border Patrol agent told CNN.

“There are kids that have been there days and days,” the agent said, pointing out that the agency is abiding by the law to care for children, except it is unable to meet the 72-hour legal requirement. “You just can’t right now.”

Federal law requires unaccompanied children to be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees a shelter network designed to house minors.

The senior official heading Customs and Border Protection, Troy Miller, told reporters that minors receive three meals daily, have 24/7 access to snacks and drinks and that showers are provided at least every 48 hours. They also have access to a recreation area, Miller said.

Read more here.

4 hr 23 min ago

Why so many children are crossing the US-Mexico border alone

From CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet

A migrant girl walks at an improvised camp outside El Chaparral crossing port as her and other wait for US authorities to allow them to start their migration process in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 11. 
A migrant girl walks at an improvised camp outside El Chaparral crossing port as her and other wait for US authorities to allow them to start their migration process in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 11.  Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

The statistics are staggering. More than 400,000 migrant children have crossed the US border without their parents since 2003.

And each time a new wave arrives, political controversy follows.

The numbers are on the rise again, with some children arriving who are as young as 6 or 7. This increase is sparking fierce debate in Washington, concern from children’s advocates and an emergency response from the Biden administration.

Why have so many kids made this dangerous journey? And what happens to them once they reach the United States?

Here are some of the key things we know:

They’re fleeing desperate conditions: There are many different reasons migrant children travel alone to the United States. CNN’s years of reporting at the border and conversations with experts reveal a common thread: It’s not a decision any family makes lightly.

Many of these children, who the government dubs “unaccompanied minors,” make asylum claims when they arrive because they’re fleeing persecution, gang violence and other forms of organized crime. Dire economic circumstances in their home countries may also contribute to their decisions to leave.

Many already have family members living in the United States: Children who cross the border alone are first held in Customs and Border Protection custody, then transferred to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, where they’re held until they’re released to sponsors in the United States.

Changing policies are giving them a chance for now:

So why are we seeing another surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border now? There are many contributing factors at play in migrants’ home countries — and also a big change the Biden administration made.

Officials recently ended a controversial Trump administration policy that was put in place during the pandemic. That policy, which cited public health concerns, allowed the US government to kick out children who came to the border without giving them a chance to seek asylum. Critics said it flew in the face of international law and human rights norms, and endangered the lives of children seeking safety.

The Biden administration has stressed that the border isn’t open, and officials have pledged to turn back most adults and families who cross. But Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the cases of unaccompanied minors are different.

Read more here.