Since October, 52,000 unaccompanied undocumented children have made their way across the U.S.-Mexico border. The Obama administration proposed to Congress that $3.7 billion be given to the Department of Health and Human Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Protection to help ease the overwhelming problem of Central American children and families seeking refuge in the United States.
Since October, 52,000 unaccompanied undocumented children have made their way across the U.S.-Mexico border. The Obama administration proposed to Congress $3.7 billion be given to the Department of Health and Human Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Protection to help ease the overwhelming problem of Central American children and families seeking refuge in the United States.
By the time these undocumented children make it to the U.S.-Mexico border, they have traveled over 1,000 miles by car, train, raft or foot from various countries in Central America.
The United States is not the only country seeing an uptick in migrant children. Almost all Central American countries have been dealing with an overwhelming wave of families seeking refugee from their home countries. El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Beliza together have seen a 712 increase in the number of people seeking asylum.
With a large percentage of the drug trade in Central America and police forces unwilling or unable to handle drug cartels, children are often recruited as "foot soldiers". Children and their families have the choice to help the dangerous cartel or be killed.
Poverty and violence are huge driving factors for children traveling to the border. Nearly 58 percent of children reported to travel North because of violent conditions at home. In Honduras, two-thirds of the population live under the poverty line. Guatemala's poverty rate is 26 percent. In El Salvador, 17 percent of the population is living on less than $2
Republicans, especially Jon Boehner, have criticized the president's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The political party said the president has failed in enforcing this border policy that gives some undocumented migrants temporary legal status. Boehner said this gives Central American families "false hope".
Immigration officials are having a hard time finding shelter for the high number of new arrivals. Dallas County in Texas agreed to shelter 2,000 children in unused hospitals and schools with Federal government funds. Some organizations and families are even fostering some of the lost children.
As an attempt to tackle the problem at its root, the Obama administration has earmarked $300 million for programs in Central America that should boost the quality of life of people in these countries.
Republican members of Congress wants to put more focus on border security instead of amnesty for the children refugees. Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted that unaccompanied kids should be deported immediately. Advocates for migrants say future funding should go to ensuring asylum to children with legitimate claims in court instead of border security.
The U.S. Border Patrol was already noticing an increase in children coming up from Central America in the fall of 2011. 52,000 children crossing the border is double the number in 2012 and triple the number in 2011, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigrant rights activist Mary Estrada (R) speaks with anti-immigration activists during a protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station on July 7, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Immigration protesters have staged rallies in front of the station for about a week in response to a wave of undocumented immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and transported to the Murrieta facility while awaiting deportation proceedings.
A bipartisan law that President George W. Bush signed in 2008, known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, seeks to combat sex trafficking by granting protections to children traveling alone from countries that are not Mexico or Canada. Under the law, unaccompanied children can’t be hastily sent back home. The Obama administration said the law is partly to blame for the crisis.
When children crossing the border are apprehended, they are brought and held to a detention center. They will then be transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement's Division of Children Services (ORR/DCS) which could be group homes or juvenile detention centers surrounded by barbed wire. If the ORR/DCS cannot locate the child's family or guardian within 55 days, the child will remain in DCS custody until the immigration case is complete before being sent back home.
While visiting Texas, President Obama urged Congress to approve the $3.7 billion he asked for to help deal with surge of unaccompanied children border-crossers. Officials at the United Nations want many of the people fleeing Central America to be treated as refugees displaced by armed conflict. This designation would increase pressure on the U.S. and Mexico to accept tens of thousands of people currently ineligible for asylum, according to The Associated Press.