Obama Administration was Warned Well in Advance of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border into Texas

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Child immigrant detainees in Brownsville, Texas (photo: Eric Gay, AP)

Outside experts warned the Obama administration last year that the number of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States was growing at an alarming rate and that more federal resources might be required to address the pending crisis.


That warning came from the University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) Unaccompanied Alien Children Project, which visited a Border Patrol station in Brownsville, Texas during 2013.


The UTEP team found that an average of 66 children were being picked up at the border each day. Thirty Border Patrol agents were required to transport the children from Fort Brown to other locations where they could be fed and cleaned. All told, 24,000 unaccompanied minors were processed by Border Patrol stations in Texas last year, making it clear that the federal government had a brewing crisis on its hands.


But it wasn’t until June of this year that President Barack Obama declared an emergency along the border and asked Congress to appropriate $3.7 billion to help resolve the situation.


Former government officials and immigration advocates told The Washington Post that the administration ignored the warnings last year and didn’t act fast enough. Victor Manjarrez Jr., a former Border Patrol station chief who led the UTEP study, told the newspaper that Washington treated the crisis as a “local problem,” adding it was “not on anyone’s radar” last year.


So far, more than 57,000 children have entered the country in 2014, and the Border Patrol estimates that figure could reach 90,000 by the end of September. “What happened this year was…off-the-charts different,” White House domestic policy advisor Cecilia Muñoz said in defense of the Obama administration’s actions. “It was not the same pattern. We assumed a significant increase, but this was not the same kind of trend line.


“This trend was more like a hockey stick, going up and up and up,” she added. “Nobody could have predicted the scale of the increase we saw this year. The minute we saw it, we responded in an aggressive way.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Obama Aides Were Warned of Brewing Border Crisis (by David Nakamura, Jerry Markon and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post)

National Center for Border Security and Immigration (University of Texas at El Paso, Unaccompanied Alien Children Project) (pdf)

The Anti-Trafficking Law that Backfired into the Current Flood of Child Immigrants (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Californians Prepare for Child Immigration “Humanitarian Crisis” with Protest Signs (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

What to do about Children Illegally Crossing into the U.S. Alone? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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