For migrants at border, both opportunity and risk

For many Americans, the scenes unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border are visceral and jarring. A 7-year old girl from Honduras walking in the darkness to keep up with strangers she met on the perilous journey from northern Mexico to Texas. A migrant woman deported from the U.S. crying at a park across the international bridge in Mexico. A group of men standing in the shadows of the border wall after being spotted — and soon-to-be deported — by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. 

For those crossing, particularly unaccompanied children, there are opportunities and risks. A new U.S. president promised to dismantle his predecessor’s policies governing asylum seekers who arrive at the southern border. Exactly who the new administration is allowing into the country is unknown, but thousands of children from Central America and Mexico who arrived in recent weeks are now in U.S. custody. Some families have been sent to relatives in the U.S. while they wait for asylum court appointments. And thousands of others have been expelled, mostly to Mexico, where they will decide whether to cross again or return home.

Migrants walk on a dirt road after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Tuesday, March 23, 2021, in Mission, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A migrant child holds onto a woman’s arm as they wait to be processed by a humanitarian group after being released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody at a bus station, Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A migrant boy, center, launches a paper airplane while playing with other migrant children at a plaza near the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge point of entry into the U.S., after being caught trying to cross into the U.S. and deported, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Reynosa, Mexico. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Migration flows at the U.S.-Mexico border are increasing for the third time in seven years under Republican and Democratic presidents. Unlike the Trump administration, President Joe Biden has chosen not to expel immigrant children — like the unaccompanied 7-year-old girl from Honduras photographed in Texas this week by the Associated Press — who arrive at the southern border without a parent. And new rules put in place by the Biden administration mean some families with “acute vulnerabilities” are being released to family in the U.S. and allowed to pursue asylum, while others in almost identical circumstances are not.

For migrant children and teens journeying from Mexico to the U.S., there is uncertainty, fear, hope and lots of waiting. On a recent day at a plaza near the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge point of entry into the U.S., a deported migrant boy launched a paper plane into the air while playing with other migrant children in Reynosa, Mexico.

A day earlier in Brownsville, Texas, a young child clutched a migrant woman’s arm as they waited for a humanitarian group to process them after Border Patrol agents processed and released them at a bus station. Similar scenes play out every day in towns in Mexico and the U.S. — snapshots of the uneven luck met by immigrants arriving by the thousands at the border. 

Migrant families, mostly from Central American countries, wade through shallow waters after being delivered by smugglers on small inflatable rafts on U.S. soil in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer talks to migrants after they were detained and taken into custody, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Abram-Perezville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A migrant woman cries as she talks on a cellphone at a park after she and a large group of deportees from the U.S. were pushed by Mexican authorities off an area they had been staying after their expulsion, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Reynosa, Mexico. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A migrant’s muddy shoes are seen without laces as he walks off the customs checkpoint in Reynosa, Mexico, after being deported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Migrants are forced to give up their shoelaces as a security measure after being taken into custody. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A young child walks alone through the brush after being smuggled across the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Freddy Alexi Acosta, 1, right, a migrant from Honduras, reacts while talking with Fredy Antonio Garcia as they wait inside a respite center after they were taken into custody and released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection while trying to sneak into the U.S., Friday, March 19, 2021, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Migrants who were caught trying to cross into the U.S. and were deported rest under a ramp that leads to the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge on Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Reynosa, Mexico. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A migrant child looks through the U.S.-Mexico border wall as a group is processed and taken into custody while trying to sneak across the border, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Abram-Perezville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Migrant families, mostly from Central American countries, wade through shallow waters after being delivered by smugglers on small inflatable rafts on U.S. soil in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. As soon as the sun sets, at least 100 migrants crossed through the Rio Grande river by smugglers into the United States. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A migrant man, center, holds a child as he looks at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent at an intake area after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, early Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Roma, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Two men are handcuffed together as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent pats them down before putting them in a van while taking them into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Hidalgo, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Migrants families, mostly from Central American countries, walk through the brush after being smuggled across the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A 4-year-old migrant boy sleeps next to his father at a shelter, Monday, March 22, 2021, in Harlingen, Texas. The father and son were taken into the shelter for the night while they wait for their flight the next morning after they were released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A father helps her daughter after they were smuggled on an inflatable raft across the Rio Grande, in Roma, Texas Saturday, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Migrants are seen in a green area outside of a soft-sided detention center after they were taken into custody while trying to sneak into the U.S., Friday, March 19, 2021, in Donna, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A child sleeps under a gazebo at a park in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Saturday, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Personal items belonging to migrants lie discarded on the ground after they were smuggled to U.S. soil near the banks of the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas Saturday, March 27, 2021. Roma, a town of 10,000 people with historic buildings and boarded-up storefronts in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, is the latest epicenter of illegal crossings, where growing numbers of families and children are entering the United States to seek asylum. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Genesis Cuellar, 8, a migrant from El Salvador, sits in a waiting area to be processed by Team Brownsville, a humanitarian group, helping migrants released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody, Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Brownsville, Texas. The group will facilitate travel so that Cuellar, who is traveling with her mother, Ana Icela Cuellar, can be reunited with her her brother, Andy Nathanael, 4, and their father Marvin Giovani Perez Bonilla, who have been residing in Maryland after being released from custody. The Cuellar family separated in August of 2020, when they tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Migrants families, mostly from Central American countries, walk through the brush after being smuggled across the Rio Grande river in Roma, Texas, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A family from Honduras sits on the ground after they were smuggled on an inflatable raft across the Rio Grande, in Roma, Texas Saturday, March 27, 2021. Roma, a town of 10,000 people with historic buildings and boarded-up storefronts in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, is the latest epicenter of illegal crossings, where growing numbers of families and children are entering the United States to seek asylum. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A 7-year-old migrant girl from Honduras, left, walks with Fernanda Solis, 25, center, also of Honduras, and an unidentified man as they approach a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing center to turn themselves in while seeking asylum moments after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Mission, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Associated Press

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