This year's "surge" of illegal immigrant children and teens is continuing at last year's historic pace, with about 30,000 expected to reach the United States, according to humanitarian groups.
Different this year: Many more are being stopped in Mexico as they flee Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, cutting the number making the dangerous trek through Mexico to the U.S. border in half.
"The numbers are surging," said Linda Hartke, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service [LIRS], one of the country's premier humanitarian-immigration groups that helps with the legal and housing of immigrants, especially children.
An immigrant child in Customs and Border Patrol custody. AP Photo
"We've seen no change in the numbers," added Alaide Vilchis Ibarra of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S. "They just aren't making it here," she said.
Urged to take action by President Obama, Mexico has moved to seize the children and families. But instead of evaluating their request for asylum, the humanitarian officials said that Mexico is arresting and eventually deporting them home. While in detention, the conditions are horrible, Ibarra said.
Some 100,000 immigrants were stopped in Mexico last year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. When calculating for just the 70,000 youths who surged over the border last year and the thousands believed to have died or were taken by gangs while making the trip, that suggests possibly 200,000 youths actually tried to make it into the United States.
Nicole Boehner, protection associate with UNHCR, raising concerns on how immigrant children seeking asylum are handled by U.S. officials, said that protections for Mexican children reaching the U.S. be strengthened.
At a press conference to release an LIRS report titled "At the Crossroads for Unaccompanied Migrant Children," Boehner also said that the U.N. urges that "the U.S. and other governments ensure that an ethic of care and empathy, as opposed to an enforcement approach, govern all interactions with children and that their best interests are a primary consideration."
To deal with the ongoing crisis of youths and families fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, plagued with gang violence, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has proposed a sweeping and humanitarian change to how the country deals with unaccompanied migrant children.
Their 59-page report [see below] reviews the current system and proposes seven major recommendations to advocate for the children.
"The president, the U.S. Congress, and federal government agencies must not lose sight of their legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to keep vulnerable children safe from harm. We have a proud tradition of extending protection to those who seek refuge on our shores. It is time to stop giving in to passing financial, political, and institutional pressures—with the lives of children at stake—and instead to commit to a consistent principled approach to the care and custody of unaccompanied migrant children," said the report.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.