What to do about Children Illegally Crossing into the U.S. Alone?
While illegal immigration overall has gone down in recent years, children from Latin America are increasingly crossing the border into the United States by themselves.
Over the last 10 months (October 2011 through July 2012), Border Patrol officials detained 21,842 unaccompanied minors. This total represented a 48% jump over a year earlier.
Deportations of young illegal immigrants are on pace to double from last year’s total, with more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors placed in deportation proceedings so far this year.
U.S immigration courts weren’t designed to handle children. Unlike criminal or family courts, immigration courts provide no legal representation for those who can’t afford a lawyer. This can mean children, some as young as six, have to go before a judge to speak on their own behalf without having any idea what is happening to them.
Immigration by adults from Mexico declined in 2011 to the lowest level in two decades. But the flow of young unaccompanied Mexicans crossing illegally remained steady, while minors from Central America nearly doubled in number since last year.
Some young people are fleeing by themselves to escape being involuntarily recruited by Mexico’s drug gangs, according to the Women’s Refugee Commission, a New York advocacy group that interviewed more than 150 young migrants in Texas to find out what motivated them to make such a dangerous journey alone. Others are trying to join their parents, who came to the United States in search of work.
To Learn More:
Young and Alone, Facing Court and Deportation (by Julia Preston, New York Times)
Obama Administration Drastically Steps Up Deportation of Parents of U.S.-Born Citizens (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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