The Border Brings a Flood of Family Migrants to Boston, Chicago, and Soon to a Town Near You

‘Any plan that does not include stopping the flow at the border is a failed plan’

By Andrew R. Arthur on September 7, 2023

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) has announced she will be calling out the National Guard to help provide for the 6,000 border migrants who have come to the Bay State, while Chicago is scrambling to deal with an influx of migrants — including more than 400 who are stuck at O’Hare Airport. The Southwest border has brought family migrants to New England and the Midwest, and soon, it’ll be coming to a town near you — assuming it hasn’t already. As illegal entries surge yet again, at least one big city mayor is demanding that the Biden administration come up with a real plan to stop the flow.

“Families Crossing U.S. Border Illegally Reached All-Time High in August”. A recent post focused on an August 31 article in the Washington Post headlined “Families crossing U.S. border illegally reached all-time high in August”, which reported that “at least” 91,000 migrant adults and children who entered illegally in “family units” (FMUs) were stopped at the Southwest border last month. Dealing with family units is a problem that starts at the border and floods into the interior.

Most FMUs at the border are “give-ups”, that is migrants who enter illegally and wait patiently for Border Patrol to come gather them up for processing.

On the bright side, that means that agents don’t have to pursue them through the brush and thickets prevalent at the Southwest border from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.

On the not-so-bright side, families require special care and handling throughout CBP processing. Extra agents must be called to the scene to ensure that the kids are cared for, families cannot simply be loaded onto a massive bus with a single driver to take them to CBP processing centers, and once at the processing center they must be segregated from unrelated adult males.

That takes a lot of Border Patrol’s time and resources. In fact, when I was at the border six years ago, I was told that while agents could process a single adult male from Mexico in about eight hours, processing “other than Mexican” (OTM) family units took about 78.5 hours.

It also creates some bad optics, as I have explained in the past. The reason why there is a “kids in cages” trope that gets trotted out when activists want to demagogue what they deem as “border abuses” is because CBP processing facilities were built around the millennium when most illegal entrants were single adult males from Mexico. They weren’t designed for families or children.

As a workaround, beginning under the Obama administration, agents have erected chain-link enclosures within those facilities to segregate groups out by relationship and age, as those enclosures are the best way to ensure agents can keep an eye on what’s going on while maintaining critical airflow.

As Border Patrol has been forced to erect soft-sided facilities to handle the Biden migrant surge, the chain-link fence pictures have been replaced with photos of tots wrapped up in Mylar blankets.

Go to the border today and try to find a Border Patrol agent. In the past, they were as thick as bugs on a bumper on border-adjacent highways and along the boundary itself. Today, they are as rare as hens’ teeth, because in places 90 percent or more of them are “off the line”, caring for migrants and children.

The cartels exploit the gaps where agents are few and far between, as Biden’s first Border Patrol chief, Rodney Scott, explained in a September 2021 letter to Congress. Worse, as Scott made clear, they choreograph those gaps. Little at the border is happenstance, and if you want to know why the fentanyl-overdose epidemic is taking 187 lives per day throughout this country, read Scott’s missive.

Complicated and Emotional. Congress has said that all inadmissible applicants for admission at the ports and between them — including illegal entrants — are supposed to be detained, until they are granted asylum or some other form of immigration “relief” or they are removed.

That said, a single unelected judge in Los Angeles, 19 years after Congress issued that mandate, contravened it and decreed that children in FMUs can only be detained for 20 days, and curiously enough under our democratic republican form of government, her word is the law.

That the judge’s 2015 order created perverse incentives for adult migrants to use children as “pawns” when entering illegally has been patently obvious since at least April 2019, when a bipartisan federal panel issued a report targeting that order and underscoring the clear threats to the migrants that flowed from it in calling for Congress to fix this mess.

But family migration is an emotional and complicated matter, and our elected representatives are poorly positioned to deal with anything complicated and emotional. So, the border beat goes on.

Families in the Interior. On his 2020 campaign website, then-candidate Joe Biden elided those complications while focusing on the emotions stirred up by family migration, deeming it “a moral failing and a national shame when ... President Trump uses family separation as a weapon against desperate mothers, fathers, and children seeking safety and a better life”.

Then-candidate Biden offered no real answers to this problem, and President Biden hasn’t advanced any, either. Instead, he simply made the problem worse in December 2021 when he quietly stopped detaining families at all. That’s a big part of why, as the Post explained, “Families crossing U.S. border illegally reached all-time high in August”.

Which brings me back to those interior cities that are struggling to handle the downstream impacts of the ongoing migrant surge.

Each is scrambling to find shelter, food, and medical assistance for their portion of the 2.2 million-plus migrants whom the Biden administration has simply released into the United States. And, as at the border, family migrants are creating the biggest headaches.

Consider the following September 6 article, from Axios Boston: “Massachusetts does not have statistics on all the migrants it is hosting, but the housing office estimates it had 6,217 families in the shelter system as of yesterday, more than one-third of whom are migrant families.”

Or the following report, from the ABC News affiliate in Chicago on August 31:

In the last year, the sanctuary city has struggled to find shelter for asylum seekers who have been coming by the bus load.


In the last 12 months, families, including children, have been sleeping on police station floors all across the city.


A mile away, dozens of mostly Venezuelan families are sleeping on the floor of the 2nd District Police Station, where a porta-potty and bucket are as close as they come to a shower.

In May, I discussed a March report from the New York City comptroller, which complained that “the majority of” migrant families — 70 percent — had settled into NYC’s Humanitarian Emergency Referral and Response Centers or shelters, “where they join individuals and families in a system where the average length of stay had stretched to 500 days even before the current crisis”.

To be fair, who can blame them? It’s difficult enough for native New Yorkers to find family housing, and things aren’t much better in Chicagoland or the greater Boston area, either.

If you are Sofia Cardena, the Venezuelan migrant who is the main subject of the Chicago reporting, with a “3-year-old and 2-year-old”, being interviewed in Spanish from police-station housing with no apparent partner (no husband or father was referenced), where are you going to go in the United States and how are you going to support your daughters when you get there?

“Any Plan that Does Not Include Stopping the Flow at the Border Is a Failed Plan.” On September 5, the Washington Examiner ran an editorial captioned “Just say no to bailing out Biden’s border crisis”, in which the paper urged congressional representatives to reject a Biden administration request for $4 billion in border-related spending and relief.

Notably, that editorial included the following passage:

After Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sent [New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D)] a letter last week telling him how New York could better handle the immigrants streaming into his city, Adams responded, “Any plan that does not include stopping the flow at the border is a failed plan.”

The mayor’s full response, as reported by CBS News New York on August 29, was as follows: “Any plan that states that all migrants must stay in New York City, that's a failed plan. Any plan that does not include stopping the flow at the border is a failed plan”.

Notably, Adams doesn’t have a plan to move family migrants out of the city’s shelter program, and absent that, they likely won’t be leaving anytime soon. The mayor knows that, which is why he is demanding that Biden stop the border flow.

Family-migrant housing in big cities is like a water balloon attached to an open faucet — it will fill up for as long as the water is flowing, but will eventually burst. The border tap’s wide open so that balloon will soon burst, and when it does, migrant families will come spilling out and spread through much smaller — and poorer — towns across the country. Which is why, as Mayor Adams explained, President Biden must shut the border tap.