The number of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego County in February was up 64% compared to last year, according to new U.S. Border Patrol data.
“I think it's hard to predict but I do think that the pent up demand from MPP will ease as most of these folks get a better idea of when they'll get a court date,” said Eve Meade, professor at the University of San Diego.
Meade attributes the recent rise in unaccompanied children crossing the border to three things.
“Most immediately we have a sequence of natural disasters in Central America,” said Meade. “And in a little bit of broader context, we have the coronavirus pandemic which has hit Central America and Mexico much worse. And then third you have this long-term security crisis in the region.”
The latest statistics released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show agents encountered around 29,000 migrant children crossing anywhere at the U.S.-Mexico unaccompanied in February, a 92% increase from last year.
“That's a lot,” said Meade. “And basically puts on track to have the most that we’ve had in a decade."
The recent influx of migrant children has left CBP scrambling to move the kids from detention in Border Patrol holding cells to temporary shelters like the one at the San Diego Convention Center.
Currently over 1,000 migrant kids are living at the convention center while they wait for social workers to connect them with family or foster care with whom they will live until it's time for their asylum court hearing.
“We have a really backlogged immigration system so when they get put in the custody of the sponsor they may wait for up to five years to have their case heard,” said Meade. “They’re essentially going to be here for the foreseeable future.”
According to the latest numbers from CBP, as of Tuesday, there are around 4,200 kids in Border Patrol custody and over 16,000 at temporary shelters.