Most Migrant Children from Central America Released to U.S. Relatives, Often via Chaotic Air Travel

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Volunteer helps migrant children from Honduras who were flown to Phoenix terminal from Texas by U.S. officials (photo: Rick Scuteri, AP)

The journey of unaccompanied migrant children crossing into the United States for the most part ends with them living with relatives, but often only after the children are jetted around the country.


The Obama administration announced last week that 30,340 children from Central America have been taken out of government shelters this year and placed into homes with family members.


Texas homes have received the largest number of the children (4,280), followed by New York (3,347), Florida (3,181) and California (3,150).


The Office of Refugee Settlement says more than half of all children who were first sent to shelters eventually were turned over to at least one parent living in the U. S. Officials added that 85% of all children were placed with a close family member. However, they also acknowledged that it isn’t required that sponsors who take in the children—following a background check—are legal residents.


About 10% of the unaccompanied children have remained in shelters, where their stay can last months at a time.


The children’s ordeal once inside the U.S. can involve being loaded onto planes, both commercial airliners and chartered jets, and flown back and forth across the states while federal officials struggle to manage the enormous influx from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.


“Frequently, children are being apprehended in the border states where their families live and flown thousands of miles to shelters and detention facilities, only to be flown back to the border states where their U.S. journeys started,” Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote at The Washington Post.


The Post cited one example of two sisters who were taken to a processing center at Nogales, Arizona, just a few hours from Phoenix, where their parents lived. But the girls were then flown to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before eventually being released to their parents in Phoenix.


“We try to minimize travel,” HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe told the Post. “But it depends on the availability of [unaccompanied minor] shelter beds at the time.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Most Migrant Children Entering U.S. Are Now With Relatives, Data Show (by Jennifer Medina, New York Times)

In U.S. Custody, Migrant Kids Are Flown Thousands of Miles at Taxpayer Expense (by Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post)

Unaccompanied Children Released to Sponsors By State (Office of Refugee Settlement)

Most Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Placed with Family or Sponsors (by Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times)

Why do Unaccompanied Minors Try to Come to the U.S.? They’re Fleeing Violence, Gangs and Poverty…and Looking for Family Members (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Administration was Warned Well in Advance of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border into Texas (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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


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