Jun 3, 2024 - News

Houston's share of unaccompanied migrant children

Bar chart showing the number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Houston from January 2015 to May 2023, by country of origin. At least 32,046 unaccompanied child migrants arrived in the city during that time period, with 42% from Honduras and 34% from Guatemala.
Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via New York Times; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Houston received the largest share of the 530,000-plus unaccompanied migrant children who arrived in U.S. cities between 2015 and 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why it matters: Unaccompanied migrant children are an especially vulnerable group as federal, state and city leaders spar over sheltering and supporting foreigners who have crossed the border without permission, with states like Texas seeking to crack down hard on illegal immigration.

  • "Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country," per a recent New York Times investigation.
  • "This shadow workforce extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century."

How it works: The numbers are based on federal data on migrant children sponsors' ZIP codes obtained by the Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Hexbin map showing places in the U.S. that have received at least 100 unaccompanied child migrants from January 2015 from May 2023. The areas that have received the most unaccompanied migrant children are in east Texas (especially Houston, which has received at least 32,000), south Florida, California and the Northeast. Alaska, Hawai'i and states in the Great Plains have seen the fewest.
Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via New York Times; Note: Includes places that have received at least 100 unaccompanied migrant children; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The big picture: Houston (32,000) took the largest share of unaccompanied minors since 2015. Los Angeles (about 12,700) was second on the list and Dallas (about 8,500) was third, according to the data.

  • Austin received 6,200, placing fifth nationwide, and San Antonio received 2,700, placing 27th.

Between the lines: Americans are increasingly skeptical of outsiders, a recent Axios Harris Poll survey found, "partly based on misconceptions about immigrants committing crimes and seeking welfare benefits, both of which are largely untrue," Axios' Russell Contreras reported.

What we're watching: Congressional efforts to tighten border security have repeatedly failed as Republicans look to avoid handing Democrats and the Biden camp a political win ahead of November's elections.

Meanwhile, Texas officials continue to fight for a state law that would allow local authorities and judges to arrest and deport people suspected of entering the country illegally.

  • The law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed last year, remains unenforceable as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decides whether it's constitutional.

The bottom line: Addressing the border is one thing — but hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied kids are already in the U.S., and looking to local, state and federal officials for help and protection.

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