On July 6, the U.S. Homeland Security chief promised that the current administration would “stem the tide” of unaccompanied minors from Central America who have attempted to cross into the United States without documentation over the previous months. The number of undocumented immigrants being apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas has skyrocketed over these last few months and has caused an intense shake-up in traditional processing procedures.
With such a high number of immigrants, many have had to be transferred to other locations in the Southwest in order to be processed. According to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, “immigration officials have cut the turnaround time for processing deportation of adult immigrant detainees from about 33 days to four, and are working to add detention capacity for children and teens who arrive on their own.”
As reported on latimes.com, Secretary Johnson was a guest on NBC's “Meet the Press” and stated that although the country wants to help migrant children as much as possible, the United States cannot permit this kind of undocumented immigration. Since October 2013, there have been in excess of 40,000 undocumented, unaccompanied children coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In addition, there were 12,000 unaccompanied minors from Mexico since the fall of 2013 who were apprehended as they tried to cross the border. However, U.S. immigration laws allow Mexican minors to be bused back to their country.
When unaccompanied minors from Central America are apprehended while attempting to cross into the U.S., it is next to impossible for them to be deported without first appearing before an immigration judge. Meanwhile, immigration courts have been facing significant backlogs for years and that means many of these minors are sent to live with relatives while they wait.
This surge in apprehensions at the border comes at a time when President Obama is already facing harsh words from critics who disagree with his take on immigration enforcement and policy. Texas Governor Rick Perry stated that he had previously warned the president and his administration in 2012 that “a problem was brewing with unaccompanied minors.” Gov. Perry recently told ABC's “This Week” that he doesn't think that the president “particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure.”
Many Republicans argue that recent policies enacted by the Obama Administration have led to this recent border crisis. One specific policy that is discussed in this context is a 2012 program which allows for those who moved “to the U.S. as children before June 2007 to apply for deportation deferrals.”
In June, the issue came to a head in Murrieta, CA, when protesters surrounded buses that were transferring immigrants to a Border Patrol facility in the area. There were more than 100 protesters and the buses were forced to re-route and take the 140 immigrants to a facility in San Diego.
The mayor of Murrieta stated that the majority of the protesters involved in the event were not residents of the town and those who do live in Murrieta are generally “caring” and “compassionate.”