Jun 11, 2024 - Politics

San Diego has received hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children

Illustration of a backpack and teddy bear alone in the desert

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Many unaccompanied migrant children are crossing the border into San Diego County, but most aren't staying in the city.

Why it matters: These kids are an especially vulnerable group, as federal, state and city leaders spar over sheltering and supporting foreigners who have entered the U.S. without permission. Some states have vowed to crack down hard on illegal immigration.

By the numbers: More than 500 unaccompanied migrant children were placed with nonparent sponsors in San Diego between 2015 and 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services.

  • Most came from Guatemala (61%) and Honduras (13%), followed by Mexico, Haiti and El Salvador.
  • The data comes from migrant children sponsors' ZIP codes obtained by the New York Times.
Bar chart showing the number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in San Diego from January 2015 to May 2023, by country of origin. At least 525 unaccompanied child migrants arrived in the city during that time period, with 61% from Guatemala and 13% from Honduras.
Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via N.Y. Times; Chart: Axios Visuals

State of play: Thousands of migrant kids traveling alone are entering San Diego each year — and the number is growing as migration patterns shift westward along the Southern border, per inewsource.

Context: San Diego has been overwhelmed with immigrant traffic in recent months, becoming a top entry point for migrant arrivals this spring.

Between the lines: While thousands of unaccompanied migrant children come through San Diego, most are sent to other cities and states to live with sponsors or family members.

Zoom out: Houston (about 32,000 kids), Los Angeles (about 12,700) and Dallas (about 8,500) received the largest shares of the 550,000-plus unaccompanied migrant children who arrived in U.S. cities from 2015 to 2023.

  • With 525 of those kids, San Diego ranks 193rd among U.S. cities.

The intrigue: Most unaccompanied minors are now going to sponsors instead of their parents in the U.S. — a major shift from a decade ago, the New York Times reported.

What to watch: President Biden issued an executive order last week to dramatically limit asylum claims and to allow border officials to quickly turn back migrants.

  • Since then, illegal crossings have not noticeably dropped along the county's border, but there's been an uptick in deportations, the Union-Tribune reported.
  • The new protocol does not affect unaccompanied children, but advocates say it could cause more parents to risk separating from their children or sending them to the border alone.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Diego.

More San Diego stories