As the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last year by the Senate has stalled in the House of Representatives, criticism centering on border security has arisen from opponents of reform. Due to a combination of factors including increased gang violence and poor economies in their home countries, unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied children have crossed into America. Many of these children have also cited hearing rumors in Central America that changes in U.S. policy would now allow for children to stay in America indefinitely. To offer perspective, 13,625 unaccompanied children came across the border in the 2012 fiscal year. At this point in 2014, over 42,000 unaccompanied immigrant children have already entered the U.S. This represents a tripling in figures since 2012, and there appears to be no sign of the numbers thinning anytime soon.
While the majority of this effect is being felt in the Southwest, the children are entering the country in such vast numbers that the effect is now being felt as far north as New York City. Process for dealing with most of these children, so far, has been to detain them briefly until relatives in America can be located. Once the geography of their relatives has been determined and the child has been processed by the Department of Homeland Security, they’re put on a bus to their relatives’ location and instructed to appear at a deportation hearing several weeks later. Naturally, many of these unaccompanied children’s relatives live in areas with dense immigrant populations, so a great deal of them are sent to major metropolitan areas such as New York.
There is not yet data available regarding exactly how many of the undocumented children have been sent to New York City. According to Anne Pilsbury, the director of Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, though, the influx has been very noticeable.
“All of a sudden it went from a trickle to more like a river,” Pilsbury told The New York Times.