Border Crisis
March 6, 2019

On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a 97 percent uptick in arrests at the southern border since last year, fueled by a 300 percent increase in migrants detained while traveling with children or families. During the five-month period that ended in February, Border Patrol agents arrested about 280,000 migrants entering the country without authorization, creating what CBP chief Kevin McAleenan called "a border security and a humanitarian crisis." The immigration system "is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point," he added, and the solutions CBP has enacted — including more medical screenings and new facilities to hold families — "are temporary and this situation is not sustainable."

The total number of arrests is significantly lower than in past decades, but the changing demographics of the migrants — families from Central America rather than single men from Mexico — has put a strain on border agencies and migrant-oriented nonprofits. CBP released the data as Trump is taking extraordinary and controversial steps to build a border wall, and before a Senate vote on terminating his declared national emergency at the border. But the vast majority of migrants turn themselves in to border agents, and "a wall would do little to slow migration," The New York Times reports, citing immigration analysts. Peter Weber

February 18, 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Monday night that a 45-year-old Mexican national had died in Border Patrol custody earlier in the day, after being apprehended by police in Roma, Texas, on Feb. 2. The cause of death remains unknown, CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said, and the man's name is being withheld. The Department of Homeland Security instituted new health protocols and guidelines for reporting the deaths of immigrants in its custody after two children from Guatemala, ages 8 and 7, died in Border Patrol custody in New Mexico in December.

The immigrant requested medical attention after being arrested for crossing illegally into the U.S., "was cleared" by officials at the Mission Regional Medical Center, then handed over to Border Patrol, CBP said. The next day, he requested medical attention again and was taken to the McAllen Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, CBP said. He died in the hospital Monday morning. Peter Weber

November 25, 2018

The United States temporarily closed a major port of entry to the U.S. from Mexico on Sunday as hundreds of migrants approached the southern border at San Ysidro.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection tweeted that "several migrants threw projectiles at the agents in San Diego. Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents' safety. Several agents were hit by the projectiles." The incident started with a peaceful protest, with migrants calling on the United States to speed up the processing of asylum claims.

Then some migrants tried to break through fencing, The Associated Press reports, and agents shot multiple rounds of tear gas at them. Witnesses said the wind blew the fumes hundreds of feet, hitting children and others migrants. The border crossing was closed to vehicle and foot traffic for several hours, but reopened Sunday evening. Catherine Garcia

November 4, 2018

While the mostly Honduran migrant caravan remains about 700 miles away from the United States in Mexico, the first of up to 15,000 troops the Trump administration plans to send to the border have arrived at their new posts.

Around 160 active-duty soldiers were stationed near McAllen, Texas, this weekend, where they will practice drills and build border barriers topped with razor wire.

Border patrol agent and National Border Patrol Council representative Chris Cabrera said the soldiers will be helpful for extra surveillance of the border but are ultimately a temporary solution. "You can put [troops] shoulder to shoulder from Brownsville to San Diego," he said, but "[a]ll [immigrants] got to do is put one foot on land and say, 'I need asylum,' and we're still in the same position."

The caravan, meanwhile, has shrunk from its peak of 7,000 people to about 4,000 and splintered into several smaller groups. Younger migrants and those without children are forging ahead at a slightly faster pace than the rest.

Two other caravans, each numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 people, have also crossed Mexico's southern border and are moving north. Bonnie Kristian

October 20, 2018

A massive caravan of mostly Honduran migrants stalled Friday and Saturday at Mexico's southern border while trying to make their way to the United States.

Mexican authorities have said those who meet entry requirements, like holding a visa, will be allowed through, but so far only a trickle — many women and children — have made it past the bridge checkpoint over the Suchiate River where hundreds waited overnight.

Police in riot gear have used tear gas and smoke to control the crowd. Those permitted to apply for refugee status can stay in a shelter, but conditions on the bridge are rapidly becoming unsanitary.

President Trump has threatened to close the southern border to keep the migrants out, but he agreed Thursday night to evaluate their asylum claims. At a rally in Arizona Friday evening, Trump alleged "many of those people [in the caravan] — a fairly big percentage of those people — are criminals."

The group includes young children and pregnant women seeking to escape dire economic circumstances and even violence in their home countries. "We have suffered so much," one migrant mother on the bridge told CBS News. "She has a fever and we brought nothing," she added, gesturing to her baby. Bonnie Kristian

July 9, 2018

A federal judge on Monday granted the Trump administration more time to reunite migrant families who have been separated at the border, NBC News reports.

The administration was instructed to reunite 102 children under 5 with their parents by Tuesday, but advocacy groups estimated that "less than half" of those cases would meet the deadline. The Justice Department's initial request for an extension was denied, but U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw will now allow officials to propose a revised timeline for cases that will need more time.

Sabraw acknowledged that some cases "will necessitate additional time," reports NBC News, but did not mandate a new deadline. A DOJ attorney said that 54 of the children will be reunited with their families tomorrow, but explained that some parents had been deported and others had been released, making the process more difficult. Officials are also identifying and vetting migrants, and the DOJ lawyer said that some migrant parents have criminal records that will keep them from being reunited with their children.

Children older than 5 will still be held to the July 26 deadline for reunification. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

July 6, 2018

The Justice Department on Friday requested an extension to reunite migrant families who were separated by the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, NBC News reports.

A federal judge originally set a deadline to reunite children under age 5 with their parents by July 10, and set a July 26 deadline for all other children, but DOJ attorneys are now arguing that the mandate didn't allow enough time for the government to identify and vet each parent. There are nearly 3,000 children currently in government custody, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

Attorneys say they need to account for the possibility of inconclusive DNA tests, and allow time to ensure that parents are fit to care for their children. "The government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunification," the DOJ argued. "At the same time, however, the government has a strong interest in ensuring that any release of a child from government custody occurs in a manner that ensures the safety of the child."

Since some parents have already been deported without their children, the DOJ is requesting permission to exclude them from the group of migrants who must be reunited with their families, reports NBC News. Alternatively, attorneys suggested, the judge could allow the DOJ to shorten its vetting process. Some of the records of migrant children "have disappeared" or have been "destroyed," The New York Times reported Thursday, making the reunification process even more challenging. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

July 5, 2018

Federal officials are performing DNA tests on migrant parents and children who have been separated at the border in an effort to reunite families, CNN reported Thursday.

Even though border officials have been instructed to stop separating families as a general policy, there hasn't been a clear plan in place to reunite the families that were separated by the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy. In order to determine which child belongs to which parent, and to avoid reuniting children with adults who may be unrelated traffickers, health officials are performing cheek swabs to verify family ties.

The officials, who may be Office of Refugee Resettlement workers, have reportedly been approaching both adults and children to order blood and saliva tests. CNN reports that it's unclear how long the testing has been going on, if the DNA information is stored, and whether officials are obtaining consent from each migrant.

Legal advocates say children certainly can't give informed consent to testing that could allow the government to keep tabs on them forever, and say the testing is evidence that the Trump administration mishandled the registration of migrants who are being kept in detention centers. A federal official says the testing is "being done to expedite parental verification and ensuring reunification with verified parents due to child welfare concerns." Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

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