786 immigrant children were released into Alabama in fiscal 2014 and the pace isn't slowing much

Children walk down one of the halls past a bulletin board at Foley Elementary School Monday, Oct. 3 2011. (Press-Register, Bill Starling)

By Leada Gore | lgore@al.com
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on December 15, 2014 at 7:21 AM

With America's immigration policy set to be hashed out in Congress - and the court of public opinion - here's something to remember: the wave of unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. has slowed but is still occurring.

Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement show 64 unaccompanied minors were resettled into Alabama in October. That figure is on pace with the fiscal 2014 numbers that saw 786 unaccompanied minors released to guardians within the state.

Nationwide, 53,518 immigrant children were released into the U.S. last fiscal year, with the majority going to one of four states: California (5,831), Florida (5,445), New York (5,955) and Texas (7,409). Georgia, Virginia and Maryland also saw higher numbers, reporting at least 3,000 children per state.

The U.S. saw a spike in the number of unaccompanied minors - mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - during the summer.

Last month, President Obama announced plans to clear the way for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants to immigrants to delay deportation. That plan has prompted debate on both sides of the issue while the situation involving the unaccompanied minors has fallen from the spotlight.

That hasn't stopped the flow of people, or the humanitarian and social crisis the migration has created.

Five counties see most children

More than half of all unaccompanied immigrant children released into Alabama in fiscal 2014 were relocated to one of five counties, with two - Jefferson and Marshall -taking in the greatest numbers of children.

The data for fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, shows Marshall County with 131 children and Jefferson County with 114. Other counties reporting at least 50 relocations (the office's threshold for individual county reporting) were DeKalb (55); Morgan (51); and Tuscaloosa (50).

Federal law requires unaccompanied minors who arrive in the U.S. to be placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR then provides food, shelter and medical care until the child can be released to a sponsor - usually a family member - while they await immigration proceedings.

That process can take months or even years.


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