March 2, 2024
The United States is facing the prospect of a major, long-term immigration headache due to the Biden administration's resettling of more than a quarter of a million unaccompanied children who came across the border from Mexico.

The United States is facing the prospect of a major, long-term immigration headache due to the Biden administration’s resettling of more than a quarter of a million unaccompanied children who came across the border from Mexico.

Since President Joe Biden took office, 257,110 migrant children have been encountered at the nation’s borders, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Children are apprehended by Border Patrol and swiftly released to sponsors across the country, not returned to their home countries.

The number of children who have come to the U.S. alone during Biden’s tenure is far beyond anything seen before, including the migration surges of children during the Obama and Trump administrations.

Border and refugee agencies have struggled to keep up with the constant arrivals of children, with thousands coming per week. But the biggest impact of this influx may not be felt until years from now, when these children become adults and face potential deportation.

While 800,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children have been protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from deportation, new children arriving are ineligible, cueing the need for a new DACA.


“Here’s the problem that this administration is not even realizing — they’re creating the next generation of DACA,” said Rudy Karisch, a former senior Border Patrol agent who oversaw operations within the southern border’s top region for apprehensions. “We have not even figured out what we’re going to do with the previous generation, and they’re creating the next generation.”

DACA was rolled out by Obama-era Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2012.

Congress is the only government entity legally allowed to set immigration levels, but after years of failed attempts to give legal status to immigrants who illegally entered the country, President Barack Obama acted. DACA allowed noncitizens who were then under the age of 31 and had entered America before turning 16 years old and before 2007 to request that the government not deport them. DACA recipients also received documents to legally work in the U.S. The protections were good for two years at a time and then would require applying for renewal.

Friday marked a decade since DACA was implemented, yet in that time, Congress has not moved to create a permanent solution for illegal immigrants who want to remain in the country permanently.

“[I]t was, at the time, seen as a stopgap measure to provide relief to unauthorized immigrant youth after Congress had repeatedly failed to offer a path to legal status for these ‘Dreamers,’” Migration Policy Institute’s Muzaffar Chishti and Julia Gelatt wrote in a recent report. “Ten years on, DACA has proven more enduring than expected and remains the only large-scale policy change implemented during this period related to the legal status of unauthorized immigrants in the country.”

Former President Donald Trump entered office in 2017 and announced plans to terminate DACA. In early 2018, he asked Congress to provide $25 billion to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico and a handful of other demands to restrict immigration in return for a plan to provide a pathway to full U.S. citizenship for 1.8 million people illegal immigrants, including all DACA recipients. No deal was made.

Texas and eight other states filed lawsuits in 2018 over the legitimacy of DACA. When Trump moved to terminate DACA, the government was again sued by those who wished to keep it in place and argued Trump had not properly justified ending it. The Supreme Court backed immigrant advocates in 2020.

In mid-2021, a federal court in Texas ruled that DACA was illegally created but allowed current recipients to continue renewing their permits, according to the federal agency that manages the program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Last December, the Biden administration reimplemented DACA.

Because courts have barred new applicants, children who arrived in the U.S. under Biden face immigration proceedings and could be removed from the country, opening the gate for a DACA 2.0.

“The DACA program, as created in 2012 and kept alive by the courts, requires the applicant among other criteria to have entered the US and been resident there since June 15, 2007,” wrote MPI Communications Director Michelle Mittlestadt. “So as currently configured, the program would not be open to arrivals who have been in the country less than 15 years.”

All the while, Democrats have introduced numerous bills to legalize DACA recipients and others, but none have prevailed. Republicans have lambasted the Democrats’ attempts to pass “amnesty” bills that they say would incentivize people outside the U.S. to attempt to get into the country in hopes of being the beneficiaries of similar future bills.


Karisch is concerned that the 2 million cases pending before 500 immigration judges nationwide will only grow, with cases taking up to eight years to resolve.

“The backlog with the court systems is just getting insane. It’s not going to get any better,” said Karisch. “They’re creating a problem that’s just going to continue to grow.”

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