Children Take the Headlines

July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

With the possibility of immigration reform dead in the water (see interview between Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and The Washington Post on July 17) this year, immigration news continues to take headlines, with the focus on the innocent – the children.  As reported by Vox, in the past few years thousands of children under the age of 18 have fled Central America, hitched rides on top of trains through Mexico, and crossed into the United States on their own. On the way, they often suffer sexual assault or violence. 

“Congress and the Obama administration are scrambling to respond to the humanitarian crisis of 57,000 unaccompanied Central American children who’ve crossed the border into the US this year,” reports Vox

These children who are caught are supposed to stay in the custody of border patrol agents for no more than 72 hours so they can be screened.  However, the border patrol agents are so overwhelmed by this sudden influx that the problem is people don’t know what to do with all of these children who are now occupying intermediate detention centers — some of which are makeshift spaces on military bases – well beyond the required 72 hours. 

Children from Mexico have to prove to the Border Patrol officer that they fear persecution or trafficking in order to stay; otherwise they are sent right back to Mexico.  However, there are reports that many Mexican children who are in danger are still sent back to Mexico. 

A much debated issue is extending the opportunity of this type of protection to children from Central America. Many members of Congress in both parties have expressed support for the idea, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) are expected to introduce a bill to make the change soon.

Those children who are able to get past the initial screening are sent into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement — part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to either be placed with available relatives or in long-term foster care. 

These children also go through an immigration process, some in front of an asylum officer and many in front of an immigration judge to determine their asylum claims. 

For a closer look at the way the US handles unaccompanied child migrants, see this Vox report.

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