Illegal immigrant children surge across border at highest rate since last summer’s peak
The second wave of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children has begun, with more than 3,000 of them surging across the Mexican border into the U.S. last month — the highest rate since the peak of last summer’s crisis and a warning that another rough season could be ahead.
Immigration officials warned that they expected another surge as the weather improved. Although the numbers are down some 40 percent compared with last year’s frenetic pace that sparked a political crisis for the Obama administration, fiscal year 2015 is shaping up to mark the second-biggest surge on record.
Authorities report having captured 15,647 children traveling without parents who tried to jump the border in the first six months of the fiscal year. Through this point in 2014, they had apprehended 28,579.
Just as worrisome is the rate of whole families — usually mothers with young children — who are crossing. So far this fiscal year, authorities have captured 13,911 “family units,” down 30 percent from last year.
“These statistics show that the surge of illegal arrivals from Central America was never really over,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Among those is the policy that requires children from Central America to be released into the U.S. rather than quickly returned to their home countries. Once released, those children usually fail to appear for deportation proceedings.
The Congressional Research Service told Congress in late March that 62 percent of the children failed to show up for their cases before immigration judges from July through February. All of them were ordered deported, but the workload of officials made deportation unlikely in most cases.
The Obama administration last year initially blamed bad economies and growing gang violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala for sparking the surge, but later acknowledged that human traffickers were marketing the journey by pointing out a loophole in U.S. immigration system that requires non-Mexican children to be released into the U.S. while they await final immigration decisions. That gives them a chance to abscond and disappear into the shadows with the more than 11 million other illegal immigrants in the country.
“Those are pretty bad outcomes for immigration hearings,” Ms. Vaughan said. “Lots of no-shows and few people getting relief. These statistics show that the administration’s response has been a failure.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, didn’t return a message for comment Monday, but Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said the Obama administration has poured manpower and resources into trying to secure the border and vowed to update plans “to ensure we are as prepared as possible for any potential scenario.”
She said agencies now have more detention beds to hold families, which means they can be deported at a faster pace. She also pointed to a new program that will allow Central American children to apply from their home countries to join their parents in the U.S., including those who are gaining tentative legal status under Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty.
“We will remain vigilant and continue working aggressively to address underlying causes of unlawful migration,” Ms. Catron said.
Analysts have been debating what other steps are needed to stem another surge this year. Really? It’s that complicated? Secure the border! Stop offering any government handouts!