In the recent weeks, I have been blogging about the latest events involving unaccompanied immigrant children being sent to Nogales because Border Patrol agents in Texas are overwhelmed with the high number of children being apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley. According to recent reports, there have been in excess of 52,000 unaccompanied minors arrested since October 2013. This is a 99% increase from the year before.
Not only are these numbers shocking, they also beg the question: why the sudden increase? Some have said that it is due to the terrible violence in some countries, while others blame President Obama and his administration for creating policies that allow for situations like this to come about in the first place.
Meanwhile, to deal with the situation at hand, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is visiting Arizona to tour Border Patrol facilities. This allows Sec. Johnson to see what the Nogales facility is truly like for children at the center and for federal officials working at the site.
About 75% of the 52,000 children apprehended since October were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. This part of Texas is the “busiest area for [undocumented] immigration along the Mexican border.” While it has always been hectic, the new surge in undocumented children being processed by Border Patrol agents is troubling and apparently, too much for Texas agents to handle. To deal with the overwhelming issue, Homeland Security “has been flying planeloads of children to Arizona for processing . . . before sending them to shelters around the country.”
Around the same time as Sec. Johnson's visit to Arizona, the Associated Press reported that the United States government is working on turning a 55,000-square-foot warehouse in McAllen, Texas into a processing facility for unaccompanied minors. Construction permits associated with the project show that officials hope to house as many as 1,000 children at a time.
Because of its close proximity to the Rio Grande Valley's busiest Border Patrol station, the new processing facility would undoubtedly be full on most days. Plans for the facility show “rows of cells with unsecured doors on either side of open ‘interaction/play' areas. Boys and girls would be separated and portable toilets would be installed.”
Similar to the Nogales facility, the children would stay at the McAllen facility until processing has been completed and they are able to be transferred to a different location.” Sec. Johnson toured border areas in Texas in June.
In order to combat the problem, House Speaker John Boehner has suggested that President Obama mobilize the National Guard in order to help patrol border areas. However, Sec. Johnson disagreed with this idea by saying that “more boots on the ground won't help.”
Another concern is that smugglers in Central America are spreading untruths about United States policy on undocumented children. Vice President Biden was recently in Guatemala and told the people there that these undocumented children will not be permitted to stay in the U.S. “Once an individual's case is fully heard and if he or she does not qualify for asylum, he or she will be removed from the United States and returned home,” he said.
What are your thoughts on this growing concern? Are more processing facilities the answer?