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Thread: Immigrant border surge dips; crossings forecast to rise in summer

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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    Immigrant border surge dips; crossings forecast to rise in summer

    Deputy Ruben Salinas, lower right, of the Hidlago County Constable Department, escorts a group of 16 Guatemalans to Border Patrol officials after they crossed the Rio Grande near Anzalduas Park outside McAllen, Texas in June. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

    March 10, 2015
    By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

    The number of Central American children and families illegally crossing the southern border, particularly in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, is likely to be smaller this year than last, but large enough to overwhelm shelters and courts, new Border Patrol statistics and projections show.

    There were 12,509 unaccompanied youths caught at the southern border during the first five months of the federal fiscal year that began in October, down 42% compared to the same time period last year, according to the latest Border Patrol figures. A total of 11,133 families were caught at the border during the same time period, 21% fewer than this time last year.

    That means the Border Patrol is on pace to catch about 39,000 unaccompanied children and about 53,000 families on the southern border this fiscal year, according to Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America. Isacson based his projection on past immigration patterns, which tend to increase March through July.

    If the projections hold, it would represent a 43% decrease in unaccompanied children and an 23% decrease in families this year compared to last.

    But even with the projected decline, the number of families crossing the border illegally would be more than triple the number in 2013, when 14,855 family members crossed.

    More than half of the children and families still appear to be crossing through the Rio Grande Valley, which saw 17% fewer families compared to this time last year and nearly half as many children, the Border Patrol reported.

    Border Patrol officers are on pace to apprehend far fewer Honduran children and families this fiscal year compared to last: 3,758 unaccompanied children—79% fewer and the lowest total since 2012—and 12,680 families, a 63% drop, according to WOLA predictions.

    They are also expected to catch fewer Salvadoran children and families this year: 7,030 children, or 57% fewer than last year; 13,161 families, or 11% fewer than last year, according to WOLA.

    Bryan Johnson, a New York-based lawyer who works with immigrant youth and families, said the decrease in Honduran immigrants caught crossing so far this fiscal year was likely due to the Obama administration speeding deportations from the U.S. and Mexico and encouraging Central American countries to crack down on illegal immigration.

    “But I don't think the conditions in those countries have changed to stop the push” for families and children to immigrate to the U.S., Johnson said, citing gang and cartel violence.

    This summer in South Texas, he said, “I don't think it's going to be as high because of the administration's efforts to stop it, but it's still going to be substantial.”

    Compared to last year, however, the Border Patrol has caught more Guatemalan and Mexican families. They are expected to apprehend 18,105 Guatemalan families this year, up 51%, and 8,962 Mexican families, up 59%, according to WOLA.

    Isacson's group receives reports from migrant shelters across Mexico, but he said it’s not clear why the number of Guatemalan migrants would increase and others decrease.

    “It may simply be economic—drought, poor harvests—that could be enough” to bring more Guatemalan immigrants, he said.

    He noted slight increases in the number of immigrants caught crossing in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California.

    “I think the smugglers are actually trying to shake out their new routes,” he said.

    San Diego has seen 397 unaccompanied minors caught crossing so far this year, a 33% increase compared to this time last year, said Acting Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Richard Smith. While the percentage increase was “significant,” he considered it “not an alarming trend at this time.”

    Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Washington, the Rio Grande Valley and Yuma, Ariz., did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the numbers.

    Last summer, immigrant mothers and children who arrived in the Rio Grande Valley were initially detained in overcrowded Border Patrol holding areas, forced to sleep side by side on cement floors without immediate access to showers and medical care as officials scrambled to add services and open massive emergency shelters, some at military bases.

    The Border Patrol has been recruiting more female agents to deal with the influx, and Homeland Security has opened more detention centers, including two in Texas that house hundreds and are expanding to eventually house thousands. Immigration courts made the cases a priority, moving them ahead on the dockets.

    There are 7,300 beds available for children caught crossing the border alone, compared to about 3,000 beds a year ago, and the average stay is about a month, according to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for Health and Human Services which runs the shelters.

    “The federal government has engaged in an aggressive, coordinated response to provide humanitarian care,” Wolfe said, adding that they have also been “heightening deterrence, enhancing enforcement, strengthening foreign cooperation and increasing border security.”

    “As a result of these efforts, the number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the Southwest border has declined precipitously, and the federal government continues to focus its resources to prevent a similar situation from developing in the future,” he said.

    Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, a lawyer who represents the Rio Grande Valley, said he plans to meet with Central American foreign ministers in Washington later this month to discuss the border situation.

    “The federal government, our government, is going to be a lot more prepared than they were last year,” for the summer, he said, adding that the Border Patrol and other federal agencies “are better equipped to process kids.”

    “The big question is are the courts and judges better equipped to handle them? My answer is no,” Cuellar said, noting that he plans to propose added funding this year for more immigration judges on the border and hopes to win bipartisan support.

    “I know that when a lot of members look at the border they just see more fencing, Border Patrol, National Guard. But the reality is, if we don't add judges, we're just adding to the backlog,” he said.

    Some advocates say that's not enough.

    “They're completely unprepared,” Johnson said of federal agencies. “When stuff happens fast, they're going to be at capacity again and there's going to be a backlog…. You'd think that people would learn from their mistakes, but I don't think they have.”

    There are no public defenders in immigration court, even for the youngest of children. They have a right to representation, but the government doesn’t have to pay for it, Cuellar noted.

    Jonathan Ryan, executive director of Raices, a San Antonio-based nonprofit that provides free or low-cost services for the children and families, said it’s a challenge to meet the need.

    “A big part of our job is making sure whether the kids, who are only here sometimes for a few days, are eligible for protection under our laws. Many are,” Ryan said.

    At least 63% of 925 children held at the massive emergency shelter at San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base last year were eligible for some sort of legal relief, a study by Ryan’s group found.

    Ryan noted that with immigration court dockets already backlogged, added funding now for attorneys to represent immigrants on the southern border would greatly reduce costs, ensuring that children and families show up in court, that their cases are processed faster and that decisions are more fair and defensible.

    This time last year, he said, government officials began to see an uptick in families and children crossing the southern border.

    “We are seeing the numbers picking up. More space is being created in the adult detention centers for women. The next few weeks are telling. March is usually the month when you start to see the curve bend,” he said, adding, “We're gearing up for a busy summer.”
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005
    So they walked all the way from Guatemala did they? Oh come on. This is a racket. They were hauled up here, dropped off, and told what to do, and someone better find out who is behind this. This is the most disgusting set up, frame up, racket there is. So we're required to house these people until they have a "hearing"? That's absurd, give them a hearing the day you catch them, if they've no documents when they cross the border, they're illegal and it's automatic deportation. We don't care about their sob stories, that they can't find work in countries with lower unemployment rates than we have, we don't care what crimes or "violence" they're being exposed to, they need to tell their own government about that, not ours. We only care that they are deported and never try this crap again on the United States at the expense of US taxpayers.
    kevinssdad likes this.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
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