There has been a huge spike in the number of unaccompanied, undocumented minors crossing the border into the US in the last few years, and especially this year. According to CBS News, the average annual numbers began to double back in fiscal year 2012, when 13,625 such immigrants came. That number doubled again the next year, and I have seen on several sources that the border patrol expects to see 90,000 of these minors this year. Most of these children are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Unaccompanied minors will not be turned away if they are not from a bordering country (Canada and Mexico), CNN says. They are not sneaking in to the country, either. Rather, they tend to report themselves to a Border Patrol site. The Border Patrol will turn them over to the Department of Health and Human Services. Most often they are released to relatives in the US. Most of them do not show up for subsequent court dates.
Some children, though, do not have relatives here, and can’t be sent home. These kids are ‘in limbo’, having no place to go. Texas has been so overwhelmed by the surge this year, that it is busing the children to makeshift shelters in Arizona. Obama has called this an “urgent humanitarian situation,” as agencies are getting overwhelmed, the children have no place to go, and they are showing up hundreds at a time.
The White House is scrambling to take efficient actions, and of course the finger-pointing is in full-force. The administration has asked for $2 billion to deal with the crisis.
Some say that the surge has been caused by violence and poverty in the immigrants’ home countries. Others say it is thanks to Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
DACA was created by President Obama by executive order in June 2012, in response to the failed DREAM Act. DACA allows an opportunity for some undocumented childhood arrivals to be granted deferred action for 2 years with the possibility of renewal. This simply means they will not be deported. They may also receive employment authorization.
DACA is designed to focus on public safety, by allocating the Department of Homeland Security resources on those childhood arrivals who pose the greatest public threat. Meeting all the qualifications for DACA does not mean you are granted DACA status; the administration still holds a lot of discretion.
Working at the Civil Justice Clinic at Quinnipiac University School of Law, I saw first-hand how complex, time-consuming, and unpredictable DACA is. In addition, since DACA was created by executive order, and no one really knows how permanent executive orders are, it can be taken away or changed extremely easily now, or with the next administration. The only certainty with DACA is uncertainty.
As DACA exists now, the children arriving at our borders will not be eligible for DACA status, because one of the qualifications is that you must have been physically present in the US on June 15, 2012, and continually thereafter until your application.
Even though DACA as it is will not help these kids, I think it is still relevant because I do not think it is a coincidence that the surge of immigrant children happened at the same time as the implementation of DACA. That is just too remarkable.
Also, DACA could always change, and Obama could very well say, “Hey, we have a bunch of kids here now and not enough money to send them back. Let’s re-write this thing.” He could do that. As Bill Cosby would say, “He brought it into this world, and he can take it out (or change it).”
Furthermore, just because the policy doesn’t apply to these kids, it is extremely plausible that their parents back home just heard the part about childhood arrivals getting a break from deportation, and sent their children walking. The power of the public impression cannot be understated. If we were all talking about it (including the man who put it in place) like it was cutting some slack for childhood arrivals, then that is the message that got through. I know how complicated the law is, and how different it is in reality from what people believe.
So what do we do about it? No matter what caused these kids to come here, something has to be done now – and the future is anything but certain. The fact that no matter who made this mess, we have to clean it up.
We need to get our act together – and fast. These children have traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. They are young, tired, vulnerable, and alone. This whole situation sounds like a feeding-ground for the sex trade and gangs, and no one wants that. They need care and protection and they need it now. I don’t care where their parents are; these kids need help. Get your game together.
They will also need long-term care: lawyers, money, education, homes. There 1,000 homeless orphans living in Arizona right now. We should not be okay with that.
My thoughts are that this surge has many causes, and one of them is a big misunderstanding about the law. I think the message needs to made loud and clear about what the law is, exactly what is going to happen to these kids, and why. And even if DACA does change to include these kids, DACA is not a path to citizenship. It is actually extremely difficult for childhood arrivals to become citizens, especially after a recent Supreme Court Ruling.
We all know it needs to get done, but no one can agree on how. No one wants an open border, but we have to do something because the floods of people are not going to stop. We need to make it efficient, more profitable, and safer. I don’t even know what that would look like, I’m not an expert. But I know that as it is, we’re not doing so hot.
What do you think needs to be done about the surge in immigrant children? What do you think are the main causes?