2014 American immigration crisis
|Legal status of persons|
The 2014 American immigration crisis refers to the surge in unaccompanied children from Central America seeking entrance to the United States. The surge has increased rapidly, doubling in volume each year, reaching crisis proportions in 2014 when tens of thousands of women and children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras migrated to the United States. Many of the children had no parent/legal guardian available to provide care or physical custody and quickly overwhelmed local border patrols. As of February 2015, the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. border had dropped by about 40%. The proportion of migrants from Guatemala had increased, while that of migrants from El Salvador and Honduras had decreased.
Most women and children from Central America simply crossed the Rio Grande and turned themselves in to the United States Border Patrol, relying on the belief, partly well founded, that United States immigration and refugee law made special provision for children. The large number of migrants entitled to hearings, counsel, and placement overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts and other government facilities.
The provisions of H.R. 7311, William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, signed into law by George W. Bush give substantial rights and protection to unaccompanied children from countries which do not have a common border with the United States. This made expeditious deportation of the large number of children from Central America difficult and expensive, prompting a call by President Barack Obama for an emergency appropriation of nearly $4 billion and resulted in discussions on how to interpret or revise the 2008 law in order to expedite handling large numbers of unaccompanied children.
According to the Immigrant Rights' Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR),(usually called the immigration courts), within the United States Department of Justice each have statutory responsibilities with respect to unaccompanied children from Central America.
The ACLU believes the stipulated settlement in Flores v. Meese, which is a United States District Court for the Central District of California decision which sets out a nationwide policy concerning federal detention of any minor, also applies.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provides free legal aid to unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings across the U.S. KIND was founded in October 2008 by Angelina Jolie in a collaboration with the Microsoft Corporation and 25 leading U.S. law firms.
From the government
On July 9, 2014, a hearing on the crisis was held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Craig Fugate, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, testified, "We are talking about large numbers of children, without their parents, who have arrived at our border—hungry, thirsty, exhausted, scared and vulnerable". Senator Dianne Feinstein compared the crisis to the American refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany aboard the MS St. Louis. The President's request for additional funds was met in both houses of Congress by proposals to modify or eliminate the rights granted by the 2008 reauthorization of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.
As most unaccompanied children from Central America do not attempt to avoid capture but turn themselves into the Border Patrol after entering the United States, they usually cross the Rio Grande into Texas. The large number of children overwhelmed facilities in Texas in summer 2014 and some of the women and children were transferred to INS facilities in California. In most instances this occurred without incident, but in Murrieta, California, on July 1, 2014, buses carrying immigrants to a Border Patrol facility were blocked by flag-waving protesters. On July 15, 2014, in Oracle, Arizona, pro and con demonstrators faced off regarding possible use of a local facility to house immigrant children. The location of the shelters being used is confidential, but a local law enforcement officer had informed the community of the planned use of the facility.
The U.S. Department of Justice reported in June 2014 that it will provide around 100 lawyers and paralegals for the rising number of children coming to the United States without parents or relatives. Under this program, the federal government will issue $2 million in grants to compensate lawyers and paralegals representing unaccompanied children. Attorney General Eric Holder stated, "We're taking a historic step to strengthen our justice system and protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society". The Obama administration estimates roughly 60,000 unaccompanied children will come across the border to the United States in 2014.
On July 18, 2014, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick offered one of two locations to the federal government as temporary shelters for up to 1,000 children. One was Camp Edwards, in Bourne on Cape Cod; the other was Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. Governor Patrick explained, "Before a facility opens here, the Commonwealth will sign an MOU with the federal government to ensure that a municipality hosting the facility has input on the circumstances of being a host location."
On July 23, 2014, Senator Barbara Mikulski introduced the bill Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2014 (S. 2648; 113th Congress), a bill that would appropriate supplemental funds for FY2014 to specified federal agencies and programs to respond to the increased apprehensions of unaccompanied children and minors along the southwestern border, fight wildfires, and support Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. The bill would provide $2.7 billion in supplemental funding. On July 28, 2014, President Barack Obama released a statement of administration policy in support of the bill, urging "Congress to act swiftly to pass the bill to allow a timely and effective response to these pressing needs."
On July 29, 2014, Rep. Hal Rogers introduced the bill "Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014 (H.R. 5230; 113th Congress)" (also known as the "Secure the Southwest Border Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2014" and the "Secure the Southwest Border Act of 2014") into the United States House of Representatives. H.R. 5230 would provide supplemental FY2014 appropriations to several federal agencies for expenses related to the rise in unaccompanied alien children and alien adults accompanied by an alien minor at the southwest border. The bill would also change the procedures for screening and processing unaccompanied alien children who arrive at the border from certain countries. H.R. 5230 would provide $659 million in supplemental funding. On July 30, 2014, President Barack Obama released a statement of administration policy stating that "his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill" if it were presented to him for his signature. The House was scheduled to vote on the bill on July 31, 2014, but the Republican leadership canceled the vote because it did not have enough votes to pass H.R. 5230 at that time.
The Department of Health and Human Services had opened three temporary shelters for children at military bases in Texas, Oklahoma, and California, but the sites were closed in August 2014 as the flow of migrant children declined and the capacity of permanent centers to house children was expanded. However, the new centers, such as the one in Artesia, New Mexico, may not offer facilities compatible with due process. After a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU about conditions at Artesia conditions there showed marked improvement.
In January 2014 the Department of Homeland Security sought a contractor to manage and transport approximately 65,000 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) "ages infant to 17 years of age". This number is in contrast to an average annual number of 5,000 UAC. The Department of Health and Human Services stated in its “Budget in Brief” that the expected annual number of arriving UAC had increased from 6,560 to an estimated 60,000 for fiscal year 2014, and the Government anticipated awarding a five-year contract to deal with them.
In October 2014, immigrant rights groups filed Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) litigation to compel the release of documents regarding the use of the expedited removal process against families with children, including those detained at the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
One cause of the influx of immigrants with children was word of mouth in Central America that families with children were not detained due to lack of facilities. Detention centers with facilities for families with children were built in Artesia, New Mexico, a temporary site that closed in December 2014; one in Dilley, Texas, that is managed by Corrections Corporation of America and located across 50 acres with a capacity of 2,400 migrants; Karnes City, Texas, with a capacity of 530 people; and a small facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The facility in Dilley includes barrack-style housing, a school, a medical clinic, and other facilities. However, migrants in the detention centers were refused bond in order to deter other migrants. In February 2015, a federal court, in a case under appeal, forbade use of deterrence of others as a consideration in refusing bond. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security issued new regulations easing requirements for bonding out reducing the average stay in the facility to 22 days, and some detainees who have been detained 6 months or longer have been released. Johnson believes maintaining some capacity to detain families is necessary to maintain deterrence.
Trafficking and abuse of migrant children resettled by federal officials
In July 2015, a federal indictment revealed a forced-labor ring operating on an egg farm near Marion, Ohio, in which teenagers from Guatemala were being lured with promises of education and then forced to work 12-hour days, six or seven days a week. The teens lived in squalid trailers, were denied their paychecks and threatened with death if they sought help. At least half a dozen of the teenagers found working on the farm had been in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is charged with the processing, treatment, and placement of unaccompanied migrant children pending the resolution of immigration proceedings. Government officials placed the teens with human traffickers who posed as relatives and friends. Concerns that the Ohio case was indicative of larger, systemic problems led to a Senate inquiry into how human traffickers successfully exploited the federal resettlement processes.
The results of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' probe were released on January 26, 2016. Led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the committee found that preventable mistakes were made in the Ohio case. HHS officials failed to run background checks on the sponsors and any secondary caregivers in the households, site visits to the sponsors’ homes were not conducted, and in one instance a sponsor was permitted to prevent a child-welfare case worker from visiting with one of the victims. System-wide, the Senate inquiry found similar, serious gaps including weak processes for verifying relationships between children and sponsors, failure to perform background checks, lack of home visits and home studies, and the placement of children without meeting sponsors in person. Other key deficiencies in HHS policies and procedures were an inability to detect when a sponsor is seeking custody of multiple unrelated children and allowing sponsors to deny HHS from providing post-release services to children and barring contact between HHS care providers and the children.
Ultimately, the inquiry concluded that the policies for placing unaccompanied minors exposed them to a risk of trafficking and other abuse at the hands of government-approved sponsors. The Subcommittee identified more than 10 other cases of post-placement trafficking beyond the Ohio case and 15 additional cases with "serious trafficking indicators." It is unclear how many other unaccompanied minors, placed by HHS, have been victims of trafficking or other abuses. HHS maintains no standardized mechanism of tracking trafficking or abuse cases. However, the findings of the Senate investigation echoed results of an independent investigation by the Associated Press (AP) in which the AP found more than two dozen children who had been placed with sponsors and subjected to sexual abuse, starvation, labor trafficking, or severe abuse and neglect.
On January 25, 2016, the AP reported that in response to surges in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S. in the past three years, government officials weakened safety standards related to the transfer of children from government shelters into sponsors' homes and the vetting of sponsors. Specifically, the government stopped fingerprinting most adults seeking to claim the children. In April 2014, the Office of Refugee Resettlement also stopped requiring original copies of birth certificates to prove the identify of most sponsors and later it decided not to complete forms that request sponsors’ personal and identifying information before sending many of the children to sponsors’ homes.
Although the number of unaccompanied youth arriving from Central America declined significantly in 2015, with a 49% drop in the first 8 months of the year when compared to that same period in 2014, the number of young migrants is again on the rise. HHS officials stated that they are strengthening their policies and procedures for placing children and have signed a contract to open more shelters; however, they remain under pressure from the Senate Subcommittee and advocates to both account for documented failings and address their causes.
From the public
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called for humane measures with respect to families and children fleeing violence in Central America and continued efforts to refine administrative policy with respect to the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States.
A 2014 Mother Jones article suggested that many of the unaccompanied children were attempting to escape abusive situations. Analysis of Border Patrol statistics by the Director of the Regional Security Policy Program at the Washington Office on Latin America shows a correlation between gang-related killing of children in Central America, particularly San Pedro Sula in Honduras, and the surge in migration.
Before the end of June 2014 some conservative bloggers postulated the sudden influx of underage illegal immigrants was planned by the Obama administration (even theorizing a Cloward–Piven strategy), based upon an advertisement posted in January 2014 by the Department of Homeland Security seeking a contractor to manage and transport approximately 65,000 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) "ages infant to 17 years of age". This number is set in contrast to an average annual number of 5,000 UAC. The Department of Health and Human Services stated in its “Budget in Brief” that the expected annual number of arriving UAC had increased from 6,560 to an estimated 60,000 for fiscal year 2014, and the Government anticipated awarding a five-year contract to deal with them.
From migrants' home countries
While acknowledging suggestions that immigration reform may have helped prompt the influx of child migrants, the Obama administration has also focused attention on measures to be taken by the migrants' home countries to try to stop the flow. In July 2014, President Obama met with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to seek their cooperation in reducing migration of children and expediting returns. In the summer of 2014, Mexico took actions to keep migrants from using freight trains ("La Bestia") to travel through Mexico. As of February, 2015, the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S. border, 12,509, during the previous 5 months had dropped while the number deported by Mexico to their home countries, 3,819, had risen by 56% year on year from the same period in fiscal year 2014. Conditions in Honduras had improved with a drop of about 20% in the homicide rate from 2012 to 2014.
Scamming of relatives
On July 23, 2013, the New York Times reported that con artists had fraudulently obtained confidential information about child immigrants held at military bases in Oklahoma and Texas and had been contacting the children's parents asking for money to facilitate release of the children and reunification with their family. No money is actually required. The matter was reported to be under investigation by the FBI.
- Regional Office United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the United States and the Caribbean (March 2014). "Children on the Run: Unaccompanied children leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. p. 15. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- Tom Dart (July 9, 2014). "Child migrants at Texas border: an immigration crisis that's hardly new South Texas has become preferred point of entry with arrivals up 178% year on year, with a spike in those from Central America". The Guardian. Houston. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- 6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2)
- Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Jens Manuel Krogstad (April 28, 2015). "With help from Mexico, number of child migrants crossing U.S. border falls". FactTank. Pew Charitable Trust. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
U.S. officials apprehended 12,509 unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first five months of the fiscal year that began in October, down from 21,403 over the same time period a year ago.
- Carl Hulse (July 9, 2014). "Immigrant Surge Rooted in Law to Curb Child Trafficking". New York Times.
- "Rights of Children in the Immigration Process" (PDF). aclu.org. ACLU Immigrant Rights' Project. July 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2014.
- Michael D. Shear; Jeremy W. Peters (July 8, 2014). "Obama Asks for $3.7 Billion to Aid Border". New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2014.
- Julia Preston (July 8, 2014). "U.S. Adjusts Court Flow to Meet Rise in Migrants". New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2014.
- "Flores v. Meese - Stipulated Settlement Agreement" (PDF). aclu.org. ACLU. August 12, 1996. Retrieved July 9, 2014.
- "Angelina Jolie Speaks Passionately About Refugees and Children". October 18, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
- "Written testimony of FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, and ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Winkowski for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing titled "Challenges at the Border: Examining the Causes, Consequences, and Responses to the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border"". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. July 9, 2014.
- "Challenges at the Border: Examining the Causes, Consequences, and Responses to the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border". hsgac.senate.gov. United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. July 9, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
Our border security system has been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of these children and families.
- "Obama Challenges Perry to Rally GOP Around Border Plan". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- Ashley Parker (July 10, 2014). "G.O.P. Pushes Back on Approving Border Funds". New York Times. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
- "Protests turn back buses carrying illegal immigrant children". Fox News. Associated Press. July 2, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
stop illegal immigration, illegals out!
- Astrid Galvan (July 15, 2014). "Arizona protesters hope to stop immigrant transfer". Azfamily.com. Associated Press. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- Semple, Kirk (6 June 2014). "Youths Facing Deportation to Be Given Legal Counsel". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
- Gomez, Alan (6 June 2014). "Obama to provide legal aid to border-crossing children". USA Today. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
- "07.18.14 Governor Patrick's Statement on Sheltering of Unaccompanied Minors in Massachusetts". mass.gov/governor. Mass.gov. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- "S. 2648 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Marcos, Cristina (31 July 2014). "House cancels border vote". The Hill. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- "Statement of Administration Policy on S. 2648" (PDF). Executive Office of the President. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- "H.R. 5230 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- "Statement of Administration Police on H.R. 5230" (PDF). Executive Office of the President. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Shear, Michael. "U.S. to Shut 3 Interim Shelters Housing Immigrant Children". New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
- "M.S.P.C. v. Johnson - Declarations". ACLU. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
a host of procedural obstacles for asylum applicants
- Julia Preston (September 5, 2014). "In Remote Detention Center, a Battle on Fast Deportations". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
- Department of Homeland Security. "Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children". FedBizOpps.gov. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
- Slavo, Mac. "Homeland Security Bid: The Smoking Gun of the Orchestrated Illegal Immigrant Invasion". The Conservative Tree House. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
- "Budget in Brief" (PDF). Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
- Julia Preston (June 14, 2015). "Hope and Despair as Families Languish in Texas Immigration Centers". The New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
- "Portman demands answers on teen-smuggling ring". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
- "Is Ohio case of migrant youth trafficking evidence of a 'systemic problem'?". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
- "Majority and Minority Staff Report - Protecting Unaccompanied Alien Children from Trafficking and Other Abuses: The Role of the Office of Refugee Resettlement". www.hsgac.senate.gov. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
- "AP INVESTIGATION: Feds' failures imperil migrant children". The Big Story. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
- Kandel, William (August 18, 2015). "Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview" (PDF). Congressional Research Service.
- Julie Hirschfeld Davis; Michael D. Shear (July 16, 2014). "Border Crisis Casts Shadow Over Obama's Immigration Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
the crisis in the Rio Grande Valley along the border has ballooned into round-the-clock cable television fare and constant fodder for Mr. Obama’s opponents in Congress.
- Gordon, Ian (2014). "70,000 Kids Will Show Up Alone at Our Border This Year. What Happens to Them?". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
- "New WOLA report on Mexico's Southern Border - Washington Office on Latin America". 17 June 2014.
- Frances Robles. "Fleeing Gangs, Children Head to U.S. Border". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- "Children, Obama Delays Action". Migration News. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Migrant Travel Today". Migration as a Travel Business.
Migrants on 'La Bestia' train.
- Tracey Wilkenson (September 7, 2014). "Mexico crackdown keeps migrants off trains known as 'La Bestia'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- Frances Robles (July 23, 2014). "Swindlers Target Kin of Migrants". New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- "The GOP’s Completely Incoherent Stance on the Border Crisis" blog commentary by Zoë Carpenter on The Nation
- "Gov. Perry: Once and for all, secure the border" oped by Governor Rick Perry in USA Today July 9, 2014
- "President Obama on Unaccompanied Immigrant Children" 25 minute video of press conference in Dallas July 9, 2014
- Democracy Now coverage July 11, 2013:
- Children in Danger: A Guide to the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border, American Immigration Council
- Unaccompanied Children FAQs from the Administration for Children and Families Dept. of the U.S. Government Health and Human Services
- Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration Congressional Research Service
- Unaccompanied Alien Children—Legal Issues: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Congressional Research Service
- Forced Displacement and Protection Needs produced by new forms of Violence and Criminality in Central America, commissioned by UNHCR and issued in May 2012 by the International Centre for the Human Rights of Migrants (CIDEHUM)