Monday, May 20, 2013

AZMEX I3 13-5-13

AZMEX I3 13 MAY 2013

Tally of kids entering US illegally, and alone, is surging
10 hours ago •
Pamela M. Prah

WASHINGTON - Every day, 80 to 120 children cross the Texas border
illegally - and alone.

What's happening in Texas reflects a nationwide trend: Immigration by
undocumented children under 18 is on the rise, even as fewer adults
come into the country illegally.

The Border Patrol apprehended 24,481 unaccompanied children in 2012,
more than three times than in 2008. Of that total, federal
authorities referred a record 13,625 children to another part of the
federal government, called the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
within U.S. Health and Human Services. This agency is responsible for
the care and custody of minor children while their immigration status
is considered.

These children, most of them teenagers, are temporarily cared for by
the federal government in shelters and group homes in more than a
dozen states, including Texas, Illinois, Arizona, California,
Florida, New York and Virginia. The federal government foots the
bill, but states feel the impact. Last year, Republican Gov. Rick
Perry of Texas called the surge of children crossing the border a
"humanitarian crisis."

The remaining 10,000-plus children caught at the border last year
were mostly from Mexico, and many were sent home.

Most of the children who remain in U.S. custody are from Guatemala,
El Salvador and Honduras. Many say they are fleeing violence from
gangs and drug cartels as well as abuse, sometimes by their own
family members. Others are trying to break free from poverty and get
a better life in the United States, or to reunite with family members
already in the states. In many cases, they crossed mountains and
deserts, often relying on "coyotes," or guides, to get to the United

Whatever the reason, the increase has been so dramatic that it caught
the government and advocates by surprise. In a typical year, federal
authorities handled between 7,000 and 8,000 unaccompanied children.
The total was 13,625 in 2012. By government estimates, it could climb
to nearly 24,000 within the next year.

Providing temporary shelter and support services to these children
while their cases work through the labyrinth of federal immigration
and legal systems isn't cheap. While most government programs are
experiencing automatic across-the-board cuts under the federal
sequester, this program got even more money this year. Congress gave
$376 million to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program this year,
more than double the $165 million in 2012. Nearly a decade ago, the
program got just $54 million.

At one point last year, the federal government used military bases in
Texas to temporarily house the overflow of undocumented and
unaccompanied children in its care.

Advocates say the federal government worked around the clock last
year to open several emergency shelters to move these children from
holding facilities operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to
the refugee office. The temporary shelters are now gone, replaced
with an additional 1,300 beds in licensed homes and facilities,
primarily in Texas.

The state no longer has over-capacity issues after some existing
facilities were expanded and new ones were built, said Patrick
Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and
Protective Services.

A decade ago, the United States would have routinely tried to deport
the unaccompanied children caught at the border, arguing they were
violating U.S. immigration laws. New laws put in place after 9/11
gave ORR the responsibility for caring and placing these children.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008
provided more protections, requiring, for example, that the federal
government interview unaccompanied children caught at the border to
see whether they were victims of human trafficking, if they were
eligible to seek asylum and whether it was safe for them to return to
their home countries.


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