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US Experiencing New Surge of Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

US Experiencing New Surge of Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Homeland Security TodayThe current fiscal year has seen a surge of unaccompanied immigrant minors crossing the US-Mexico border into the United States. If the trend continues, the nation is likely to see an even greater number of minors crossing the border than in fiscal year 2014, which saw a record number of children illegally crossing the border.

Concerned over recent reports revealing thatthe Obama Administration was unprepared to meet the 2014 surge of unaccompanied minors, the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on Tuesday to assess whether the Administration has a plan to stop the border surge and adequately monitor the children.

“We need to be prepared to take care of these unaccompanied minors crossing the border, while at the same time ensuring their safety, and the safety of the community, when placing them with sponsors,” Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA ). “This will require the administration to stop shirking its responsibility and monitor these individuals after placement. They need a plan, they need to learn from their mistakes, they need to ensure that the minors are quickly and safely returned to their home country, and they need to be held accountable.”

In addition to the issue of crime, Grassley explained that the treatment of unaccompanied minors in the US recently came into the question with the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report calling into question Health and Human Service’s care of these children.

Moreover, Grassley said he has received whistleblower information that minors were being released to sponsors with criminal records that included domestic violence and child molestation.

“We have placed these children in homes with people who often have not been appropriately screened,” said Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). “We are pushing them through a fast track immigration process, often without lawyers. And now we are picking them up in raids and deporting them back to the dangerous conditions from which they fled.”

Homeland Security Today previously reported that an intelligence assessment by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) attributed the 2014 surge to “traditional migration factors exacerbated by misperceptions of recent US immigration policies among migrants.”

“These misperceptions are likely fueled by human smugglers and Central American media — providing deliberate, errant or unwitting reporting to migrants on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum and comprehensive US immigration reform,” the EPIC report explained.

Despite EPIC’s intelligence findings, a February 2015 report by the GAO attributed the rapid increase in the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America apprehended at the US-Mexican border to crime, violence and economic distress.

Thomas Homan, Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at the hearing that, “Based on my experience, there are many who are escaping fear, but many more who are just taking advantage of the system.”

“There is no doubt,” Sessions responded.

While the number of illegal border crossings is expected to continue to rise in 2016, the number of children being deported from the US is declining, with only 4,680 children returned home out of the more than 127,000 who were apprehended on the border during the past two-and-a-half years.

Sessions asserted that failing to deport children who are here illegally undermines US immigration law and the will of the American people. He also took issues with the President’s assumption that every child is a victim of an “asylum-type danger” that entitles entry into the US.

“It cannot be that every youngperson that appears from Central America is entitled to asylum or entry into the United States, contrary to our laws,” Sessions said. “It just cannot be.”

Sessions noted that only 3.5 percent of those caught unlawfully entering the US are returned home. He connected the uptick in illegal immigration, particularly among minors, to lax enforcement of immigration laws. During the hearing, he asked Homan whether the US would see a drastic reduction in attempts to come to the US unlawfully if 90 percent of those caught illegally crossing the border were promptly returned home.

Homan said he does not disagree with Session’s assessment.

According to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, over 40 percent of unaccompanied minors are not showing up for immigration hearings and no one is following up on these individuals when they skip their hearings, unless they are receiving post-release services.

Grassley said, “They are also not enforcement priorities for this administration. This means a lot of these minors are nowhere to be found.”

Additionally, Sessions commented, “If we are not giving them a date and time to appear and making sure that somebody is responsible for making them appear, then the system is totally broken.”

Leahy, however, emphasized that the increase of unaccompanied children crossing the border into the US presents a humanitarian crisis. Consequently, the nation should think long and hard about the risks these children face by sending them back to the dangerous situations from which they fled.

“These children should not become pawns in some larger immigration debate,” said Leahy. “They are, by and large, victims of terrible violence. They come seeking help and protection because we are a great nation with a long history of protecting those who cannot protect themselves. We must stand with these children, not use them in political games.”

 

 

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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