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The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America

The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America

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The humanitarian situation on the U.S. southern border, created by a dramatic increase in children fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, demands a range of sustainable interventions across northern Central America, as well as increased international assistance.
The humanitarian situation on the U.S. southern border, created by a dramatic increase in children fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, demands a range of sustainable interventions across northern Central America, as well as increased international assistance.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Jul 24, 2014
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1 Center for American Progress |  The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America
 The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America
Root Causes and Policy Solutions
By Dan Restrepo and Ann Garcia July 24, 2014
Over he pas ew years, and in paricular over he pas ew monhs, he number o children and amilies leaving he Cenral American counries o El Salvador, Guaemala, and Honduras and arriving in neighboring counries and a our souhern border has grown significanly. Already in fiscal year 2014, more han 57,000 children have arrived in he Unied Saes, double he number who made i o he U.S. souhern border in FY 2013.
1
 Te number o amilies arriving a he border, consising mosly o mohers wih inans and oddlers, has increased in similar proporions. In fiscal year 2013, he U.S. Deparmen o Homeland Securiy, or DHS, apprehended ewer han 10,000 amilies per year; ye, more han 55,000 amilies were apprehended in he firs nine monhs o fiscal year 2014 alone.
2
 Te majoriy o unaccompanied children and amilies who are arriving come rom a region o Cenral America known as he “Norhern riangle,” where high raes o  violence and homicide have prevailed in recen years and economic opporuniy is increasingly hard o come by. Officials believe a oal o a leas 90,000 children will arrive on he U.S.-Mexico border by he end o his fiscal year in Sepember.
3
 Tis brie aims o shed ligh on his complex siuaion by puting he numbers o people leaving he Norhern riangle ino conex; analyzing he broad hos o drivers in Cenral America ha have caused a significan upick in children leaving heir counries; and prescribing a series o oreign policy seps o aciliae managemen o his crisis and also o address he long-erm roo causes pushing hese children o flee heir home counries. Tis brie, however, does no delve ino he needed domesic policy changes in he areas o immigraion and reugee law.
 
2 Center for American Progress |  The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America
Changed flows in persons arriving from Central America
 While he media did no ocus unil recenly on he issue o rapidly rising numbers o unaccompanied children and amilies crossing he souhern border, his rend has no  been an overnigh phenomenon. Beore FY 2011, U.S. Cusoms and Border Proecion officers encounered an average o 8,000 unaccompanied children on an annual basis.
4
 Te majoriy o hese children came rom Mexico, wih ewer coming rom El Salvador and Guaemala and even ewer rom Honduras.
5
 Tis rend shifed in 2011, when hree imes more children rom Guaemala, Honduras, and El Salvador arrived a he U.S.  border, wih he majoriy coming rom Guaemala.
6
 Te ollowing year, heir numbers doubled again, oaling more han 20,000 unaccompanied children in FY 2012 and or he firs ime eclipsing he number o Mexican unaccompanied children crossing he  border.
 7
 Already his fiscal year, more han 57,000 children have arrived alone a he U.S. souhern border, and a oal o a leas 90,000 children are expeced o arrive on he  border by he end o he year.
8
 Some esimaes have prediced ha as many as 220,000 unaccompanied children could arrive in FY 2015.
9
FIGURE 1
Unaccompanied children apprehended during fiscal years 2009–2014*
 El SalvadorGuatemalaHonduras15,00010,0005,0000FY 2009FY 2010FY 2011FY 2012FY 2013FY 2014
*FY 2014 through June 30, 2014Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children," available at http://www.cbp.gov/news-room/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children (last accessed July 2014).
In examining he curren dynamic, i is essenial o undersand ha he Unied Saes is no alone in experiencing a significan influx o persons coming rom Norhern riangle counries. According o he U.N. High Commissioner or eugees, or UNHC, Salvadoran, Guaemalan, and Honduran children and amilies are also seeking reuge closer o home in he neighboring counries o Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Cosa ica, and Belize.
10
 In 2012, hese five counries regisered an asounding 432 percen increase in he number o asylum requess compared o he number o similar requess lodged in 2009 by individuals rom he Norhern riangle counries. In 2013, he number o people rom he Norhern riangle seeking asylum in neighboring counries jumped
 
3 Center for American Progress |  The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America
712 percen rom 2008 levels.
11
 People are also seeking sae haven wihin heir own counries, as evidenced by rising numbers o inernally displaced persons, especially in Honduras and Guaemala.
12
 For example, 17,000 Hondurans have become inernally displaced since 2008, according o civil sociey moniors, mosly due o criminal vio-lence perperaed by local gangs and ransnaional drug rafficking organizaions.
13
Tere are less daa abou he number o amilies fleeing, bu according o he Women’s eugee Commission, he number o amilies arriving a he U.S. border has increased in similar proporions o he number o unaccompanied children.
14
 In fiscal year 2013, DHS apprehended ewer han 10,000 amilies per year; ye, more han 55,000 amilies  were apprehended in he firs nine monhs o fiscal year 2014 alone.
15
No only have he numbers o persons coming o he Unied Saes rom his region changed over he pas ew years, bu he demographic composiion o hese new arrivals has changed as well. For years, i was more common o see older eens, almos always male, coming o he Unied Saes.
 16
 oday, children ages 12 and under are he ases growing group o children arriving alone a he border, and almos hal he children coming are girls.
17
 Jus a ew years ago, i was rare or a child younger han 12  years old o arrive alone in he Unied Saes. oday, i is commonplace or elemen-ary-school-aged children o be apprehended by U.S. Cusoms and Border Proecion on he souhern border.
18
 
Factors behind the rise in unaccompanied children
Some in Congress have been quick o ry o score poliical poins by accusing he Obama adminisraion o having brough on his influx o children and amilies. Te firs congressional hearing on he issue was ellingly named “An Adminisraion Made Disaser: Te Souh exas Border Surge o Unaccompanied Alien Minors.”
19
 A he hearing, House epublicans argued ha lax border enorcemen and he Deerred  Acion or Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program󲀔which grans a wo-year reprieve rom deporaion and a work permi o eligible undocumened youh󲀔has given chil-dren in Cenral America an incenive o come o he Unied Saes.
20
 ep. Darrell Issa (-CA) even called on Presiden Barack Obama o end DACA and o begin deporing hose wih he emporary legal saus in order o send a message o prospecive child reugees ha hey should no come o he Unied Saes.
21
 Conrary o wha he adminisraion’s opponens may claim, however, i is clear ha U.S. border enorcemen policies are no he primary drivers o children coming o he Unied Saes.
22
 Insead, much o he surge sems rom he inerrelaed challenges o organized criminal violence and povery ha adversely affec individuals in Norhern riangle counries.

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