Migrant children
More than 550,000 children have come into the U.S. unaccompanied between 2015 and 2023, presenting new challenges for legislators across the country. AFP

Houston, Los Angeles and Dallas have received the largest shares of unaccompanied migrant children who arrived to the U.S. between 2015 and 2023, according to new data by the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services obtained by The New York Times.

The past two months have set records for families illegally crossing the southern border, Axios reports. Last month alone, 124,000 family members crossed without visas— whether illegally or by showing up at ports of entry.

Simultaneously, the rate of migrant children crossing the border is also presenting unprecedented numbers. Between 2015 and 2023, 550,000-plus unaccompanied migrant children made their way to the U.S.

From that number, Houston (about 32,000 kids), Los Angeles (about 12,700 kids) and Dallas (about 8,500 kids) received the largest share, according to the data obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

After crossing the border, unaccompanied children face particular challenges once they reach the U.S., Axios argues.

"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," according to 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 data comes as federal, state and city leaders grapple with how to deal with incoming migrant children— accompanied or not— into their school districts, as all children in the U.S. are entitled to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, per the Department of Education.

According to Axios, education officials say they are trying to enforce vaccination requirements, find classroom space, change bus routes and hire more bilingual teachers to meet the needs of thousands of students who have survived traumatizing migration journeys.

Last year, for instance, Chicago Public Schools saw their first enrollment bump in 12 years in part thanks to the new arrivals, as well as to more preschoolers. The district is now enrolling about 1,000 additional English learner students.

Similarly, since last July, New York City Public Schools have received 11,000 students living in temporary housing— the only way the city tracks whether students likely are recently arrived migrants or asylum seekers.

Additionally, the unaccompanied children data comes amid increased political battles on how to deal with the border.

In Congress, efforts to tighten border security have repeatedly failed as Republicans look to avoid handing Democrats and the Biden administration a political win ahead of the November elections.

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