U.S. Has No Plans for Leniency With Unaccompanied Migrant Children

By Julianne Hing Jun 20, 2014

Migrants fleeing Central America for the U.S. will not be greeted with open arms, the Obama administration wants to make clear. In fact, to deal with the influx of an expected 90,000 migrants this year, the Obama administration will be funneling immigration officers and judges to the region to accelerate processing–and deportations–of migrants, reports the New York Times.

Since October, some 47,000 young migrants traveling by themselves have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, a sixfold increase from the numbers arriving just two years ago, reports The Arizona Republic. The bulk are from Central America. 

While experts say the bulk of migrants are fleeing endemic violence and crime in Central America, others say migrants are encouraged by rumors that they’ll be given legal status and protection. It was a line the Obama administration has resisted, but seems to bear some truth. 

NPR‘s Carrie Kahn reported on the influx of children and single women who are arriving every day at the nation’s borders. Some have picked up on rumors that the U.S. will not turn them away:

Maria Albaringa, a 34-year-old nurse, says she can’t find a job and is sick of standing on the streets, taking people’s blood pressure for spare change. She’s with her 14-year-old son. Her 22-year-old niece has come, too, with her 5-month-old daughter. They’ve heard the U.S. is letting in women and children.

"We know that the people in the U.S. are truly humane, good people, and will help us mothers," she says.

Last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sought to clarify the situation with his own stern words. "Those who cross borders today illegally, including children, are not eligible for an earned path to citizenship," Johnson said on June 12, the Arizona Republic reported. 

Meanwhile, faith leaders and immigrant rights advocates are urging a reframing of the debate, reports the Catholic News Agency. The tens of thousands arriving at the nation’s borders are not immigrants seeking merely economic opportunity, they’re refugees fleeing violence and rapidly destabilizing communities who have "no alternative."

Catholic News Agency‘s Matt Hadro reports:

"We have to realize that Central America lies between Columbia and Mexico, and the drug-related violence is a huge part of it. The second big factor is gang presence," Jones said. "In all these communities and urban neighborhoods, even now in some smaller towns, gangs have a presence. They’re in schools. And families just don’t know what to do.