The Biden administration is reluctant to refer to the situation on the southwestern border as a “crisis,” preferring to call it a “challenge.” But with nearly 100,000 apprehensions at the border last month alone, that may be a distinction without much difference. Whatever it’s called, this influx of asylum seekers—including a rapidly growing number of unaccompanied, unauthorized minors crossing into the U.S. from Mexico—is a major humanitarian and legal dilemma confronting the new administration, one that previous administrations have also wrestled with.
Over the course of the Trump administration more than 5,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents. And in spite of a court order to reunite all children with their families, on the day that Joe Biden was inaugurated more than 1,000 children remained disconnected from their parents, according to Lee Gerlent of the ACLU, primarily because locating parents who were deported without their kids has been extremely difficult. That is why President Biden has created a task force headed by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to track down these parents, whatever it takes, and reunite broken families. Meantime, more than 4,200 unaccompanied children are now being detained at the border on Biden’s watch, with thousands held beyond the legally imposed limit of 72 hours in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.