If any of this sounds sadly familiar, that’s because we’ve been here before. Both the Barack Obama
and the Donald Trump administrations
struggled to deal with unaccompanied children at the border, as well. Although their approaches were different, neither administration was able to come up with a compassionate solution for this recurring situation.
Now the pressure is on President Joe Biden to live up to his campaign promises and tackle the problem. And while this will be a Herculean task, Biden has an opportunity to show the world that the US can — and will — meet its obligations to vulnerable children.
To be clear, these child migrants have the legal right
to claim asylum. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website
, “You may apply for asylum with USCIS as an unaccompanied minor if you [a]re under 18 years old, [h]ave no lawful immigration status in the United States, [and h]ave no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody.”
Under current US policy, children who arrive at the border on their own are taken into custody by US Customs and Border Protection. Within 72 hours
, they are then supposed to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which helps place the children with family members or sponsors.
But this system is inadequate for the number of children it must now process; consider that, on average, kids are now staying in Border Patrol facilities for 107 hours
, which is…