News surrounding the crisis at the border has shed light on the dramatic increase of immigrants fleeing their countries of origin. The number of unaccompanied minors has grown from 6,800 between 2004 and 2011 to 13,000 in 2012, and 24,000 in 2013. This year, that number will reach almost 90,000. According to these estimates, the number of unaccompanied young people coming to the United States has increased by more than a 1000 percent in ten years. However, even with the dramatic increase, the unaccompanied minors who have fled their countries of origin only account for 0.15 percent of the foreign population and 0.4 percent of the population of immigrants fleeing from Central America.Read More
Placement with relatives in America does not end the child’s vulnerability to trafficking (Lind, 2014). With the dramatic rise in UAC, there has been increased pressure to get UACs out of shelters and into placement with family members as quickly as possible. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has stated that they do a home study for only certain categories of UAC, as well as follow up visits for at-risk children (ORR, 2013). This raises concern that a number of placements are not being adequately screened for safety. A similar practice in the 1990s resulted in Chinese immigrants being released to people officials believed were relatives, but turned out to be part of smuggling networks. The smugglers would then extort the immigrants and their families (Lind, 2014). Although it is still too soon to know if the same thing is happening to these UACs, from 2008-2010, 95% of confirmed labor trafficking survivors in the U.S were foreign-born (Banks & Kyckelhahn, 2011).
Unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are currently the center of much debate across the nation. President Obama has urged Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the influx of UACs, emphasizing the need to speed up the deportation process (Folye, 2014). However, Congress remains divided on how to address the situation. The crux of the debate centers around two existing policies. The first is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order from the Obama administration that was signed in June 2012. DACA allows undocumented minors deferred deportation if they arrived before 2007 and if they meet specific criteria. Deferment can be revoked at any time, and it does not provide lawful immigration status, a green card, or citizenship. Instead, deferment indicates that the Department of Human Services (DHS) does not consider the child a danger to national security or public safety.Read More
Adolescents & the Border Crisis, Pt.1: Unaccompanied Minors & the Trafficking Victims Protection Act
Since October, nearly 63,000 youth have been apprehended attempting to enter into the United States through the Mexican border (Park, 2014). Since 2011, the number of children from Central America attempting to enter America has doubled each year (UNHCR, 2014). These children, labeled either unaccompanied minors (UAM) or unaccompanied alien children (UAC), are coming to the U.S. primarily from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They are frequently coming in an attempt to escape poverty, sexual assault, violence from gangs, kidnapping, or murder. This multi-part series will explore the impact of border migration by unaccompanied children and youth on social policy in the U.S.Read More