Jun 10, 2024 - News

Salt Lake City's unaccompanied migrant children are mostly Central American

Bar chart showing the number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Salt Lake City from January 2015 to May 2023, by country of origin. At least 445 unaccompanied child migrants arrived in the city during that time period, with 48% from Guatemala and 24% from Honduras.
Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via N.Y. Times; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

More than 400 unaccompanied migrant children arrived in Salt Lake City between 2015 and 2023.

State of play: It's a small fraction of the more than 550,000 unaccompanied migrant children who arrived in the U.S. during that period.

  • That's based on U.S. Department of Human Health and Services data on migrant children sponsors' ZIP codes obtained by the New York Times.

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 some states seeking to crack down on illegal immigration.

What they're saying: "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 Times investigation.

  • "This shadow workforce extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century."

The big picture: Immigration has become a focal point in the state's high-profile races for governor and the U.S. Senate, with many Republican candidates criticizing the Biden administration's response at the border.

Zoom in: In February, first-term Gov. Spencer Cox, who is seeking reelection, tied drug crime downtown to an increase in illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border — a claim that Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall refuted.

  • Last year, Cox, Senate President Stuart Adams and then-House Speaker Brad Wilson, who is running in the U.S. Senate race, rejected the notion that Utah is a "sanctuary state."

By the numbers: The majority of the unaccompanied migrant children who arrived in Salt Lake City are from Central American countries, such as Guatemala (212), El Salvador (106) and Honduras (46).

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