Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Increase in Unaccompanied Children Entering the U.S.

In each of the past three years, the U.S. government has apprehended and detained about 8,000 unaccompanied children entering the this country . In the first quarter of 2012, the government saw a 77% jump in those apprehensions. The government has detained and sheltered more than 4,000 children since October.

Some believe children are fleeing increased gang recruitment in their home countries in Mexico and in Central America. Others say that because of increased border enforcement adults who are in this country without permission cannot easily go back and visit their children, so they are choosing to bring those children north.

Here are a couple of articles that talk about the increase in children coming to the U.S..
--Sonia Nazario

Detained immigrant children moving to air base

Updated 02:33 p.m., Tuesday, April 17, 2012
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Federal officials are making an Air Force base near San Antonio the temporary home of 100 unescorted children stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol because a network of contracted shelters is overwhelmed with more kids than it can accommodate.
The first of the children arrived at Lackland Air Force Base on Monday, the San Antonio Express-News ( reported. The children, apprehended at different times and locations, are under the charge of the Unaccompanied Children's Services division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Lackland spokesman Brent Boller tells the newspaper that the base is "simply providing the temporary housing" in an unused 1,000-student dorm with showers and a dining hall.
HHS has taken in 7,000 to 8,000 illegal immigrant children in each of the past three years, but sheltered more than 4,000 since October. It has seen a 77 percent jump in the number of children in the first quarter of 2012.
"All anyone can do is speculate about what's going on," Lavinia Limon, president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, told the Express-News.
The children have been distributed among 10 states, where they receive government-provided housing, health care and psychiatric treatment. Nearly 9 of every 10 immigrant children are reunited with their families.
Unaccompanied children are not housed in immigrant detention centers, Linda Brandmiller, immigration services director for Catholic Charities in San Antonio.
Two-thirds of the children are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, while 12 percent are from Mexico. About 80 percent are boys, with 83 percent being older than 14.
Half of the children crossing the border are caught by the Border Patrol, Limon said. Most of those contacting her organization for help say they fled forced recruitment into gangs or prostitution, she said.
"The children are recruited quite early and it is very difficult for them to resist, and so the ones who don't want to be part of those kinds of activities take off," she said.
Organizations that receive government grants to care for the children at their own shelters will also oversee their care at Lackland, according to a statement from HHS.
"HHS appreciates the collaboration, cooperation and assistance of (the Department of Defense), (Department of Homeland Security) and state and local officials," the statement said.

Spike In Undocumented Immigrant Children Prompts Use Of Military 

Base As Shelter

Posted: 04/18/2012 7:41 am Updated: 04/18/2012 4:05 pm
Unaccompanied Minors

      The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 
and the Air Force turned a San Antonio Air Force base 
into temporary shelter for 100 undocumented children Monday, 
after being overwhelmed by unusually high rates of underage 
border-crossers, according to a report by theSan Antonio Express-News.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

      Although the number of migrants attempting to cross the border
illegally has plummeted in the past five years, the number of
children entering the country illegally without guardians has steadily
risen in recent years and months, according to the Unaccompanied
Children’s Services division of HHS. This spike has prompted temporary
fixes like the base shelter, and has strained already-limited resources
for the federal agencies and legal advocates who represent undocumented

    Nationally, immigration remains a heated topic. On Sunday,
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called for a Dream Act-style bill
to allow some undocumented immigrants who entered the United States
as children to become citizens, though he pledged in January to veto
the current Dream Act—a measure supported by 91 percent of Latinos.

    In the past three years, HHS estimates that it has taken in around
8,000 such children. But since October, the agency has housed more
than 4,000, a 77 percent hike from the first quarter of last year,
according to a report by The Associated Press. According to HHS,
the agency currently has more than 2,100 undocumented children
in their custody.

     Though the recent rise in undocumented children is as of yet
unaccounted for, advocates at Kids In Need of Defense (KIND),
an organization which provides pro-bono legal representation to
unaccompanied minors, told The Huffington Post that many children
who come to the United States alone do so to escape domestic
abuse, political turmoil and human trafficking.

     “Kids don’t just travel across international borders unless there
is something wrong with their life,” Wendy Young, the president
of KIND, told The Huffington Post.

     Two-thirds of the minors that started trickling into San Antonio’s
Lackland Air Force Base on Monday are from Guatemala, El Salvador
and Honduras, while 12 percent are from Mexico. About 80 percent
of the minors are male, and 83 percent are older than 14, according
to an AP report—though the Women’s Refugee Commission has 
found that 14 is the average age of an unaccompanied child in 
immigration custody.

     The San Antonio Express-News reported that the 100 children will
stay in an empty 1,000-student dorm, equipped with showers and
a dining hall, until the government figures out what to do with each
of them. According to the AP, HHS will eventually distribute the
100 children among 13 states, where they will “receive government-
provided housing, health care and psychiatric treatment” and await

     An unaccompanied minor in HHS custody faces a hearing in which
an immigration judge decides if he or she will be sent back home,
reunited with a legal guardian in the United States or granted
asylum. Nine out of 10 are reunited with a family member,
the AP reports.

     Yet, under current U.S. law, unaccompanied children are not guaranteed
lawyers in deportation and asylum cases. While pro-bono lawyers have
done their best to fill this void, in 2011, nearly half of all such children
went in front of a judge without any form of representation, according
to Elaine Komis, a spokesperson for the Executive Office for
Immigration Review in the Department of Justice.

     According to Young, the president of KIND, a child with representation
is three times more likely to be granted asylum than a child without.

     Jennifer Podkul, who has represented nearly 200 unaccompanied
minors in her five years serving a pro-bono lawyer, told The Huffington
Post that she and her colleagues are overwhelmed.

     "We can’t move quickly enough from one case to the next,” she said.
“We just can’t keep up.”

     Judge Bruce Einhorn, a retired U.S. immigration judge who oversaw
children’s immigration cases for nearly two decades, told The Huffington
Post that without lawyers, minors are often left without any
representation at all, unable to adequately argue their own case.

     “It’s like dealing with someone in a boat in the middle of a lake with
no guide and no oars,” Einhorn said. “It’s much easier for a child to
have someone in the boat with them rowing.”


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