Joel Rose

The camps at military bases around the U.S. are supposed to be temporary, the last stop for just-arrived Afghan refugees before they move on to permanent homes.

But for many, the weeks are stretching into months, with no clear end in sight.

"They told us you would eventually leave the camp, but it was an uncertain situation," said Zahra Yagana, who spent close to two months at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin with her two children.

Images of Border Patrol agents on horseback clashing with Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, were still in heavy rotation on cable news when the Homeland Security secretary promised a swift investigation.

"It will be completed in days, and not weeks," Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers.

But people who knew the Border Patrol — and who've tried to hold its agents accountable for alleged misconduct — knew how hard that would be.

The Border Patrol recorded nearly 1.7 million migrant apprehensions at the Southern border over the past year — the highest number ever, eclipsing the record set more than two decades ago.

But that doesn't mean it's the biggest number of individual migrants who've illegally crossed from Mexico into the U.S. in a single year.

In fact, it's probably not even close.

President Biden's nominee to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection faced tough questions from a Senate committee about how he would handle the southern border.

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus told senators on Tuesday that he would seek to balance border security with humane treatment of migrants.

Zainab distinctly remembers her first meal in the U.S. — and not in a good way.

"They brought us rice, and there was a kind of meat on it, and it was thin like paper," she said, struggling to explain the concept of deli meat in Dari through an interpreter. "I didn't eat it," she added, laughing.

Now it's her job to make sure newly arriving Afghans will have better memories of their first meals.

Most days, newly arrived Afghans fill the lobby of a church basement in Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Families with young kids, young couples, older adults — they're all here for help with their resettlement cases, and to stock up on donated toiletries and housewares that are piled everywhere in the Fairfax office of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area.

Since August, the organization has helped as many people as it did all of last year.

"For us, that feels like a surge already," said CEO Kristyn Peck in an interview.

The Biden administration has unveiled new guidelines for federal immigration enforcement that prioritize the most urgent threats to public safety, while still leaving discretion in the hands of individual officers and agents.

As the Biden administration scrambles to relocate thousands of Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town, it's also looking for a private contractor to help operate a migrant detention facility at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — and to hire at least some guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole.

The Department of Homeland Security insists that there are no plans to transfer Haitian migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. has long housed asylum-seekers encountered at sea.

As the Biden administration moves quickly to expel migrants camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, its plan depends on a controversial Trump-era policy put in place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to speed up removals.

Across the political spectrum, a broad majority of Americans say they favor welcoming Afghan allies to the U.S. — driven in part by an outpouring of support from groups that generally favor tougher restrictions on immigration.

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While the U.S. air lift out of Kabul has ended efforts to resettle tens of thousands of Afghans in the U.S., well, that's only just begun. And already they're facing some very big obstacles. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

Activist Claudio Rojas says he was deported to his homeland, Argentina, for appearing in a film that criticized U.S. immigration authorities.

Rojas is one of the stars of The Infiltrators. He was invited to introduce the movie at the Miami Film Festival in 2019. Instead, Rojas was detained at a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.

A few weeks later, he was deported.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says immigration authorities are encountering an "unprecedented number of migrants" at the southern border.

Authorities encountered migrants more than 212,000 times in July, according to official numbers released Thursday — including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children, surpassing the monthly record set in March.

With the rate of coronavirus infections rising across much of the South, some Republicans governors are floating the theory that migrants — and by extension the Biden administration — are to blame.

They're "allowing free pass into the United States of people with a high probability of COVID, and then spreading that COVID in our communities," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in an interview last month on Fox News.

For years, activist Maru Mora-Villalpando has organized hunger strikes to protest conditions at an immigrant detention center in Washington state. By 2017, she'd gotten the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

One high-ranking ICE officer described her as an "instigator" in an internal email. Another responded that Mora-Villalpando was a "well-known local illegal alien," and suggested that trying to deport her might "take away some of her 'clout.'"

Updated August 3, 2021 at 6:42 PM ET

A police officer has been killed in a violent incident near the Pentagon transit center in Virginia, officials confirm. The officer has not been publicly identified.

When the pandemic hit, Keri Smith and her family fled with what they could fit in their car. They spent the past 15 months in Canada, where she was born, at a family cottage in rural Nova Scotia.

Now that Smith and her husband are fully vaccinated, they're ready to come back to their home in Northampton, Mass.

"I have my house; my kids go to school," Smith said in an interview with NPR. "We want to get back to our lives. We are ready. And we can't."

When former President Donald Trump threatened a wave of mass deportations in the summer of 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement mobilized to deliver.

But those raids turned out to be more hype than reality — in part because of opposition from local law enforcement leaders, including Harris County, Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who runs one of the country's biggest jails in Houston.

The Department of Justice is shifting away from the Trump administration's effort to decertify the union that represents immigration judges, the latest twist in a two-year battle over the union's future.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority last year sided with the Trump administration, which tried to dissolve the union that represents nearly 500 immigration judges.

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Updated June 16, 2021 at 6:51 PM ET

Survivors of domestic and gang violence have better odds of getting asylum in the U.S. as the Justice Department reverses controversial rulings from the Trump administration.

When President Biden visited the battleground state of Georgia for a rally to celebrate his 100th day in office, immigrant advocates were there to protest, chanting, "End detention now!" as he stepped to the microphone.

Normally the president would just ignore the hecklers until security could escort them out. Instead, Biden engaged with the protesters.

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Four months into the Biden administration's efforts to reunite migrant families who were separated at the border during the Trump administration, a total of three dozen families have been cleared to be reunified in the United States.

That's a tiny fraction of the thousands of families who remain apart, and immigrant advocates who have been pushing for their reunification for years say not enough is being done to right a massive injustice.

Across the political spectrum, Americans are worried about the rising number of migrants apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll.

But whatever their misgivings about the situation at the border, majorities of poll respondents favor creating a legal pathway to citizenship for certain groups of immigrants already living in the country.

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The Biden administration is ramping up exceptions to a public health order that has largely shut the U.S.-Mexico border to migrant traffic since last year because of the pandemic.

More migrants are being granted humanitarian exceptions because they are considered the most vulnerable, including families with young children and transgender people who had been living in dangerous conditions in Mexican border towns.

A handful of migrant families that were separated at the border by the Trump administration will be allowed to reunify in the United States this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday.

The four families will be the first to be reunified through a task force that was created by President Biden shortly after taking office in January.

The decision to allow migrant parents into the U.S. to reunify with their children here marks a sharp break with the Trump administration, which resisted allowing parents who were previously deported to return.

The American Civil Liberties Union is urging the Biden administration to close dozens of immigration detention facilities across the country, citing the historically low number of immigrants in detention and the high cost of paying for empty beds.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the ACLU calls for the closure of 39 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities.

The Biden administration is ordering U.S. immigration enforcement agencies to change how they talk about immigrants.

The terms "illegal alien" and "assimilation" are out — replaced by "undocumented noncitizen" and "integration."

The new guidance is laid out in a pair of detailed memos sent Monday by the heads of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to roll back the previous administration's hard-line policies and build what they call a more "humane" immigration system.