We all know about current issues involving immigrants crossing the border between U.S. and Mexico without documentation. These immigrants put themselves in very dangerous situations in order to come to the U.S. and have a better life. When these individuals are arrested during their attempt, they face deportation. As most would expect, the majority of immigrants deported in 2013 were young, Mexican males.
However, Arizona Public Media (APM) has recently reported that there has been a considerable spike in the number of “unaccompanied immigrant children” attempting to cross the border without documentation. The report by Fernanda Echavarri discusses how troubling this issue has truly become. The increase has occurred primarily in Texas, but Arizona is “feeling some of the ripple effect, too.”
The situation has caused the federal government to step in and declare a “Level IV condition of readiness because the current situation exceed[s] the capacity” of CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The situation has become so severe that some agents in Arizona have been temporarily assigned to help Texas.
The majority of these young immigrants are under the age of 18 and are coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Immigration officials are hoping that increased warnings about the dangers of crossing the border will prevent more young people from attempting to cross without documentation.
According to Homeland Security officials, there were an estimated 25,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended while trying to cross into the U.S. and they expect close to 60,000 next year.
So, the next question is why are so many children attempting to make this trip on their own? Some think it may be because “the lack of economic opportunities and misinformation about U.S. immigration policies.” According to Jimena Diaz, consul general of Guatemala in Phoenix, one example of this is “in Guatemala, the smugglers tell parents that if their kids come here there is a way for their kids to stay and have no problem at all because they are young.”
It is important to understand the various U.S. immigration policies when it comes to minors. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act “requires immigration officials to give custody of the children apprehended to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after processing their paperwork.” Then, HHS will handle either repatriation or detention of these minors.
Lisa Frydman, associate director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said that the average age of these young people attempting to cross the border without documentation is between 14 and 18. However, Frydman also notes that she has seen some children as young as 9 years old trying to come to the U.S. without parents or relatives.
According to Frydman, many of these children are coming to meet their parents who are already in the U.S. and the majority of them also talk about the violence occurring in their home countries.