A much discussed issue over the last several weeks has been the large influx of children crossing the southern border and entering America unaccompanied by an adult. Most of these kids are coming up from countries south of Mexico. In 2011, fewer than 4,000 children from Guatemala, Honduras and El
Salvador were caught
crossing the border. That number has surged to more than 40,000 of the 52,000 children caught or turning themselves in since
October. A law passed in 2008 makes a distinction and requires that these children
from countries other than Mexico and Canada be handled and processed
differently. Reality on the ground has changed since that law was passed
and altering or repealing it would change the way these kids are
This problem has been building for years, a paper trail of funding request show that for months Washington knew this problem was forming but nothing was done. Now calling it a crisis President Obama has
requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds from Congress to
address the surge of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States from the south. The
request for funds which is nearly twice as much as originally expected would be used to improve border security, care facilities for the children,
additional immigration judges and agents, and efforts to help Central
American nations curtail the exodus of children northward.
Lets cut to the chase and the reason I'm writing this article, it is to call attention to the money and the math behind it. Rounding it off for fun 50,000 goes into 3.7 billion 74,000 times. this means the government is asking for roughly $71,153 to cover "handling" each of these children. This does not include the cost of paying for medical cost and schooling for a 15 year old boy allowed to join his undocumented father in Houston. This is only additional funding going to agencies that are "overwhelmed."
Everyone seems to agree this influx of children is a problem. Yes, they are children. Yes, it must and should be handled but to an American who has worked all their life and now lives on a monthly social security check of under $1,000 a month the cost will most likely seem excessive.
Of the 3.7 billion dollars 1.8 are slated to go to Health and Human Services. Secretary Sylvia Mathews
Burwell says it would
assist their efforts to humanely treat the needs of the children at the
border. "We don't have enough beds," Burwell urged "a robust and compassionate
approach" noting many of the children crossing the border are often
fleeing personal danger in their respective countries. HHS also
provides basic medical and mental health exams to the children, as well
as some education resources. The
goal of this special outlay is to speed up the processing of these immigrants, with an
eye toward sending as many as possible back to their countries of origin
and improving the detention conditions while they are here. The White House said that without
supplemental funding agencies do not have sufficient resources to adequately address this
Obama's request includes $1.6 billion for the departments of
Homeland Security and Justice to support more aggressive deterrence and
enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would get $1.1
billion. Most of it would pay for detention and
removal of undocumented adults traveling with children, expansion of
alternatives to detention programs, and “additional prosecution
capacity” for adults with children who cross into the US illegally. Customs and Border Protection would receive $433 million and an additional $300 million will go to State governments and international programs for efforts to counteract misinformation campaigns in Central
America and to discourage these children from making the trip north.
This is a dangerous trip and many children have climbed upon the top or hang on to the side of a train known as "the beast" for a free ride north. Experts say they are fleeing exploding violence in their
homelands, and are often under the misconception that once here, they'll
be permitted to stay. Others come because their parents are conned by smugglers who promise families
their children will be safe after they cross the border. The horrors that the children are fleeing are real. According to the
UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras has the highest murder rate in
the world outside of a war zone, with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people.
Much of the killing is concentrated in poor neighborhoods, where
families will do anything to get their children to safety.
This violence, combined with an ambiguous White House policy, has
created the current situation according to Scott Stewart, vice
president of tactical analysis at Texas-based intelligence firm
Stratfor. In June 2012, President Obama signed a memo called Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals. It permits teen illegal immigrants to
stay in the US for up to two years. It also provided new discretion to
ICE in enforcement of immigration laws. While DACA does not grant
illegal immigrants permanent status, the policy is not well understood
in Central America. In fact, we are seeing reports of teenagers showing up at the border
with cheat sheets designed to help them gain DACA status and make it
more difficult to be deported, such as claiming their parents are dead, or that they are fearful
for their security.
The fact is many of the thousands of children will get
to stay, despite warnings to the contrary. The Wall Street Journal reports that data, as well as interviews with
the children and their advocates, show that very few children are sent
home, and many are allowed to stay in the US for years, if not
permanently. Justice Department figures show that in fiscal year 2013, immigration judges ordered 3,525 children
to be deported, with an additional 888 allowed to return home
voluntarily. These numbers pale in comparison with the number of
juveniles apprehended, amounting to between 23,000 and 47,000 children
apprehended annually in each of the last five years.
The reasons children are staying included backlogged courts,
winning the right to stay, and simply ignoring orders to appear
in court. In recent months, the US has been overwhelmed with finding shelter
for children entering the country illegally. President Obama
repeatedly said that they won’t be allowed to stay but the reality is very
different and until this changes more are going to come because they're achieving what they want, safety and
reunification with their families. The head of the immigration court system told a Senate hearing that 46 percent of juveniles failed to appear at their hearings
during the last eight months. The problem is expected to get worse, due to growing
backlogs. As of June 30, there were 41,832 pending juvenile cases, up
from about 30,000 nine months earlier and it is
common for court dates to be set two or three years out.
This is a bad situation not a humanitarian catastrophe and many ways exist to ease the cost and resolve it in a way that diminishes governments role as the ultimate solution. First thing that must be done is retroactively change the 2008 law that gives these children special treatment. Other ideas include funding a massive advertising campaign to let people know the borders are not open. At little cost the National Guard and Military can rotate troops to the border regions and aid in the round up of these youngsters. Refugee camps or centers to hold them can be ran and overseen by groups like the Red Cross and other NGOs. It is important we do what we can to help these children but this should not be another reason to expand government to clean up a mess government created.