Over the past few months, we've heard of the massive influx of unaccompanied children making the journey from Central America to the U.S. border. Tens of thousands of children made the long and dangerous journey, crossing primarily into Texas, to escape gang violence, drug trafficking, and extreme poverty in their home countries. However, the number of children making the crossing has been declining, and August has seen a further drop.
According to government numbers released this week, fewer than 3,500 immigrant children were caught at the border in August. According to an article by the Washington Times, after hitting their peak numbers in the month of June, which saw about 10,000 children apprehended at the border, the numbers have steadily dropped over the past couple months. The total numbers are still significant, totalling more than 65,000 unaccompanied children over the past year, causing the federal government to struggle with how to deal with so many immigrant children.
“So we're seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children,” President Obama reported. The President has called the situation a humanitarian crisis, but states that progress has been made, in the form of utilizing more judges to hear immigration cases. However, according to Border Patrol agents, the drop in numbers may be seasonal, with less people making the 2,500 mile journey during the hot summer, and will likely rebound once the weather cools.
The government is still dealing with placing these immigrant children, across a number of states. Under federal law, unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S. are to be placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ORR provides the children with food, shelter, and medical needs until the child can be released to a sponsor, who is usually a family member. The child stays with their sponsors until they are called before an immigration hearing, a process which can take months to years.
A total of 37,477 immigrant children have been released to sponsors throughout the country since January. More than 5,000 children have been released to sponsors in Texas, making that state top the list, followed by New York, California and Florida.
Arizona has only taken in about 200 children, with the majority placed with sponsors in Maricopa County. A number of these children are attending Arizona schools, which has raised the ire of some, including John Huppenthal, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Huppenthal demanded that the federal government pay Arizona $1 million for the costs of educating the immigrant students.
However, school officials say they are prepared for the incoming students, with experience dealing with refugee students from as many as 50 countries. Phoenix Union Superintendent Kent Scribner believes Huppenthal's letter was politically motivated, in view of the upcoming elections. According to Scribner, the students may have political significance, but “their numbers are neither financially nor statistically significant here in the real world.”