Thousands of migrant children are coming to Maryland every year. One ZIP code in Southeast Baltimore saw an influx of nearly 1,800 migrant children from 2015 to 2023, among the most in the country over that time.

ZIP code 21224, home to parts of Canton, Brewers Hill and Greektown, saw more children from other countries — most of them in Central America — than all but 13 other ZIP codes in the United States.

And it wasn’t even atop the list in Maryland.

Another ZIP code, this one in Prince George’s County, ranked No. 2 in the nation. Across Maryland, tens of thousands of unaccompanied migrant children have arrived since 2015. They often end up in homes with distant relatives, or even strangers.

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It’s part of a surge over the last few years that thrust Maryland into the center of a national crisis surrounding migrant children. Between January 2015 and May 2023, more than 30,000 unaccompanied migrant children were placed in Maryland. That’s 49 children per 10,000 state residents.

No other state was even close.

Washington, D.C., was a distant second with 35 migrant children per 10,000 residents.

Maryland saw a surge in these migrant children in 2021, along with much of the nation, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, obtained last year by The New York Times. HHS is responsible for placing migrant children with adult sponsors.

Sometimes, the children are reunited with their parents. But more and more of the migrant children coming to Maryland are placed with someone other than their mother or father. Often that means an aunt, uncle or other family member, the data shows. But sometimes it can be more distant relatives, or even a complete stranger.

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In 2015, more than two-thirds of the children who came to Maryland were placed with their parents. By 2023, that number had plummeted to 37%.

Like the nation as a whole, the vast majority of the children come to Maryland from one of three countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Prior to the pandemic, more children came to Maryland from El Salvador, but since 2020, the number of children from Guatemala and Honduras has caught up. Now, more children come from Guatemala than any other country.

The children coming from Guatemala are much more likely to be placed with someone other than a parent. Just 41% of those children ended up with their parents, compared to 51% for Honduran children and 55% for those from El Salvador.

Within Maryland, Prince George’s County — the second-largest county by population in the state saw by far the most unaccompanied migrant children. Nearly 10,000 such children, around one-third of the state’s total, wound up in Prince George’s County.

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More than 3,200 children were sent to ZIP code 20783, near Adelphi, just outside of Washington, D.C. That’s the second-highest total for any ZIP code in the nation, second only to a part of Houston, Texas. About 60% of the people who live in 20783 are foreign-born, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. It is among the ZIP codes with the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in the nation.

It’s not the only hot spot in Maryland. Another ZIP code, 21649 in eastern Maryland along the Delaware border, home to the small cities of Marydel and Templeville, was sixth in the nation for migrant children per capita. That ZIP code was home to just 2,200 people in 2022. It saw an influx of 137 migrant children over an eight-year period, a substantial increase for an area of that size.

In Anne Arundel County, the top ZIP code is 21225, which spans both Brooklyn Park in Anne Arundel and parts of south Baltimore City. About 61% of the population in that ZIP code lives in Anne Arundel. In Baltimore County, it was 21222 in Dundalk. In Howard County, it was 21045 in Columbia.

Maryland’s population has been essentially flat since 2020. The state would have lost people if not for international migration, according to Census data. The state has only added 3,000 people since the decennial census, but nearly 100,000 people have moved away to other states. International migration has offset those losses substantially, likely including many of the 15,000 migrant children who have moved here since 2020.

Ramsey Archibald is an award-winning data journalist originally from Birmingham, Alabama.

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