Migrant children from Central America sit in the back of a US Border Patrol vehicle as they wait to be transported on March 14. They had just crossed the Rio Grande on a raft, traveling from Mexico into Penitas, Texas. Pictured in the front row are Yoandri, 4; Michael, 5; and Yojanlee, 2, all from Honduras.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

This is what we're seeing at the border

Updated 6:54 PM ET, Tue March 16, 2021

Migrant children from Central America sit in the back of a US Border Patrol vehicle as they wait to be transported on March 14. They had just crossed the Rio Grande on a raft, traveling from Mexico into Penitas, Texas. Pictured in the front row are Yoandri, 4; Michael, 5; and Yojanlee, 2, all from Honduras.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

Children and families rafting across the Rio Grande. Overcrowded detention facilities. Camps where desperate migrants wait to cross.

These are some of the scenes playing out now at the US-Mexico border, where the number of migrants crossing is already so high that the head of Homeland Security says officials "are on pace to encounter more individuals on the Southwest border than we have in the last 20 years."

The number of kids in custody is growing at a rate that has alarmed advocates, but the big numbers are only part of the story.

With a new administration in Washington, there are new policies being put in place and different political calculations at play on both sides of the aisle.

The reasons migrants are coming are shifting, too, with a pandemic devastating many countries' economies and a string of recent natural disasters displacing people and destroying their homes.

Photos of what's unfolding at the border show how the situation is intensifying — and give an important window into the lives that hang in the balance.