migrant childrenAs President Biden attempts to undo many of the anti-immigration policies of his predecessor, a surge in unaccompanied migrant children seeking refuge at the southern border is creating logistical challenges. In January 2021 alone, border patrol agents reported nearly 6,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border. This is almost double compared to the number of crossings in January of 2020. Concerns have arisen regarding the well-being of these migrant children and the steps that will be taken to safeguard them.

Causes and Temporary Solutions

The increase in migrant children can be linked to a combination of several factors. Firstly, natural causes. The coronavirus pandemic, coupled with devastating hurricanes in Central America, has compounded pre-existing conditions such as violence and poverty. Secondly, the reversal of Trump-era policies has restored hope to migrants who were previously denied entrance into the U.S.

To respond to the increase in asylum seekers, President Biden has restored border facilities to full capacity. Biden has also restarted programs allowing migrants to apply for asylum from their home countries rather than having to make the perilous journey to the border.

Perhaps most debated is Biden’s decision to reopen the Carrizo Springs influx facility in Texas for children aged 13 to 17. The facility has drawn comparisons to a McAllen, Texas, processing center used by both the Obama and Trump administrations where children were enclosed in chainlink fences and forced to sleep on the ground. Child welfare advocates are concerned about Biden’s decision because the Carrizo Springs facility is not licensed to house children. However, they generally agree that the facility is an improvement over the McAllen housing used during the Trump presidency.

Political Tightrope

While Biden’s reversal of the restrictive immigration policies created by Trump will increase the number of refugees granted legal entrance into the United States, a bigger question remains on how to improve conditions in migrant countries of origin in the face of COVID-19, extreme weather, climate change and violence. Addressing these conditions will eliminate the need for migration entirely, resolving many of the issues associated with migration to the U.S.

The process of softening the restrictions put in place by the previous two administrations is a lengthy and complicated one. Biden faces pressure to open the border from the left and pressure to close it from the right. Through the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, Biden has put forth a $4 billion four-year plan to improve living conditions in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the home countries of many of the migrants who have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. These improvements will alleviate migration to the U.S.

The Road Ahead

Biden is walking a political tightrope by working to address root causes while simultaneously continuing Obama and Trump-era border practices. He also faces the tangible challenge of lacking the capacity to process the sheer numbers of migrant children arriving daily. Whether or not Biden can deliver on the promises he made in his campaign remains to be seen but it is certain that the U.S. is understandably trying to adopt an approach that safeguards both the well-being of migrants as well as that of the United States.

Kieran Hadley
Photo: Flickr

migrant children

The U.S. government announced on August 4 that it would be closing three separate emergency shelters designed to house the rapid influx of unaccompanied migrant children arriving from Central America. The shelters, run by Health and Human Services (HHS) and located on military bases, are planning on closing due to waning numbers of children crossing the border and an increasing capacity at other, more permanent shelters.

One shelter at Fort Still in Oklahoma closed on August 8, with the other two shelters located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas and Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme, California set to close in the next two to eight weeks.

The migrant children were being held at the bases thanks to a 2008 law dictating that any unaccompanied children from countries not bordering the U.S. must be handed over to HHS within 72 hours of being apprehended. It has been estimated that around 7,700 children had been housed at the three bases, with the average stay lasting 35 days.

Most of the children are originally from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but have come from other Central American countries. The majority of those living at the shelters have found themselves fleeing their home countries due to an increased instability in the region. This lack of safety is largely due to a combination of increased gang violence and deeply entrenched levels of extreme poverty. However, it is impossible to attribute one particular cause to the massive increase in children attempting to enter the U.S.

Unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S. border hit a peak during June when it was estimated that as many as 2,000 children were crossing per week, but the amount has since tapered off. The last estimate was around 500 per week in Mid-July. An estimate from the Obama administration say that a total amount of child immigrants could hit 90,000 by September.

– Andre Gobbo

Sources: New York Times, PBS, BBC
Photo: Raw Story

Many Chinese students place high on the rankings for international standardized tests. Recently, China came out on top for the Program of International Student Assessment which covers various subjects such as science, math and reading.

Sadly, there are a vast number of children that are completely left out of the mainstream education system in China. One of the most discriminated groups of students are those possessing disabilities.

Students with disabilities’ access to public schools is extremely lacking in part because of the hukou system. It is a national registration system that prevents migrants from moving freely throughout the country.

Citizens are given rural and urban hukou registrations. If an individual with a rural hukou registration migrates to a major urban center for work, even though they are Chinese citizens, they are denied basic social services that individuals with urban hukous can obtain.

It is unfortunately a legal discrimination.

In Beijing, over one-third of the people are migrant workers, which means one-third of the population cannot take advantage of the social services available to their neighbors. Many migrant children are unable to attend public schools in the region where their parents work because they do not possess the proper hukou registration.

Also, there seems to be an inherent bias against children with disabilities in the Chinese education system. The system divides students into two tracks: those with disabilities and those without.

Those with disabilities are denied access to certain subjects. Many students who are blind are pushed into music and massage courses even if they have the capacity to excel in other subjects.

While the system allows students with disabilities to move into the more mainstream education system as long as they meet the requirements, in many cases they are denied. The legal resources for disabled individuals who are denied access seems to be minimal at best. This is due to the murkiness of Chinese discrimination law.

While China has established schools throughout the country dedicated to teaching children with disabilities, even these come with their own form of discrimination. Many of these schools are tailored to teach children with a specific disability. Students with disabilities who do not fit within the specified category are not allowed to attend.

The result of this discrimination is that many disabled children are not afforded the opportunity to attend school. Looking at the latest international standardized tests, it is apparent that Chinese students in mainstream schools have become great achievers. It is now time for the government to afford the same resources present in mainstream education to disabled children.

It is an affront to Chinese society as a whole that many children with special needs are simply left in the dust as other students excel worldwide.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: Human Rights Watch, CNN
Photo: Education News