A Trump Administration Strategy Led To the Child Migrant Backup Crisis At the Border

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When thousands of migrant children ended up stranded in U.S. Border Patrol stations last spring, President Trump’s administration characterized the crisis as a spontaneous result of the record crush of migrants overwhelming the U.S. immigration system. But the backup also was a result of policy decisions that officials knew would ensnare unaccompanied minors in bureaucratic tangles and leave them in squalid conditions, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents viewed by The Washington Post.

The policies, which administration officials began pursuing soon after Trump took office in January 2017, made it harder for adult relatives of unaccompanied minors to secure the children’s release from U.S. custody. Enhanced vetting of sponsors — including fingerprints and other paperwork — and the sharing of that information between child welfare and immigration authorities slowed down the release of children and exposed the sponsors to deportation.

The government knew the moves would strain child shelters, according to documents and current and former officials, but it was aimed at sending a message to Central American migrants: Coming to the United States illegally has consequences.

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