As record-setting numbers of young people illegally cross the U.S.’s southern border, the need for U.S. leaders to move forward on immigration reform is once again in the spotlight.
From October last year through May of this year, some 47,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed borders into the United States from Central America. The number is close to double the immigrants who entered the country illegally in the previous 12 months, according to reports. One estimate suggests that by the end of the fiscal year at the end of September, the rate could be as much as four times that of the previous year.
While the Obama Administration has adopted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, the current flood of immigrants who are crossing the border illegally demonstrates the need for more reforms. President Obama has emphasized that the arriving immigrants aren’t eligible for legalization under proposed immigration reform legislation or deferred action for childhood rules. By the same token, the president calls the influx a “humanitarian crisis” that must be addressed.
Reactive measures to the crisis has so far translated into emergency appropriations to provide aid, care and shelter to weary and beleaguered immigrants. To assist the undocumented arrivals in navigating their way through the immigration court system, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has developed a new $2 million legal aid program. The Senate Appropriations Committee has earmarked up to $2.28 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to give aid to the immigrant minors. Additionally, federal officials have also opened emergency shelters on military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma.
When U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) officers catch the young immigrants as they cross the border, the children move into deportation proceedings. As cases make their way through the courts, children go to a family member who already lives in the U.S. or they’re placed in the care the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Pew Research, some 98 percent of undocumented minors arriving from Mexico last year were between the ages of 12 and 17. Of these, 89 percent were male. Corresponding numbers for Central American minors aren’t available.