This week, we learned that over 1,6000 migrant children residing in immigration shelters across the country have been rounded up, put on buses and sent to live in a tent city Texas. Immigration personnel sent these children in the middle of the night with little notice—in order to limit their attempts to escape.
The tent city is located in a barren, remote part of West Texas. Children here do not have access to education and limited access to legal support. Compared to the shelters, conditions here are rough. While the tent city is technically not a detainment center—the Flores settlement dictates that children may not be held in jail-like conditions—its location in the middle of a desert makes it difficult for children to leave.
So why are certain children being taken from their comparatively protected shelter and sent to live in a tent in the desert?
Shelters at the border have been at capacity for months—and more children cross the border each day. Currently, more than 13,000 migrant children are being held. Immigration officials made the decision to move children who had been in the shelters the longest to the rougher conditions in the desert—as these children will likely be released to sponsors sooner.
Same circumstances, new problem
With all the recent headlines about waves of migrants attempting to enter the U.S., it could lead to the misconception that migration rates have spiked. In fact, the number of border crossings has steadily declined over the past decades, and current numbers are similar to those in recent years.
The unique circumstance now, however, is the growing number of child detainees. Immigration authorities are holding more migrant children than ever before, because the release of children to sponsors is at an all-time low.
Politics complicates resolution
A migrant child can be released to live in the U.S. if they have a sponsor—a family member or friend residing in the country—who is willing to take them in and care for them. In many cases, such sponsors are undocumented immigrants.
However, the Trump administration’s recent crackdown on illegal immigration has made many potential sponsors reluctant to come forward to claim migrant children in need—for fear of being deported themselves. Thus, the current sheltering predicament is one which the administration has, in effect, created itself.