More than 52,000 unaccompanied youths have been caught along the Southwest border this fiscal year, almost double last year’s total. The influx is fueled by danger at home, experts say, and by false rumors that minors and women with young children will be welcomed.
Just recently however, far fewer unaccompanied immigrant children are crossing the Texas-Mexico border, allowing the federal government to close the temporary shelters that it hurriedly opened to handle the surge, according to authorities.
The Department of Homeland Security released data showing that over 5,000 unaccompanied children were arrested in July, barely 2,500 in May and June and the fewest children arrested in a month since February. Similarly, arrests of parents with children dropped by more than half last month, to just over 7,000. Arrests in South Texas have fallen in recent weeks to about 100 per day, down from 300 or more in June, according to the Border Patrol.
The decline could be the result of hotter temperatures or a messaging campaign in both the U.S. and the migrants’ home countries that stresses the dangers of the journey and warns them they will not be allowed to stay. The government has reduced the removal time for many adults traveling alone from around 33 days to about four days, authorities claim. Officials on the border are careful not to suggest that the crisis has passed. When temperatures subside, they say, children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador could be back in greater numbers.
The White House hasn’t taken any credit for the decrease in immigrants, which gives the administration more time to deal with the influx of those who have already arrived, many drawn here by persistent rumors that once across the border, they will be allowed to stay. The slowdown also seems likely to reduce the urgency for Congress to act after adjourning recently without a deal to give President Barack Obama any of the money he’s asked for to handle the influx. If the slower pace holds, Congress may have little incentive to return to the issue when lawmakers reconvene.
The falling numbers could cause the border crisis to recede somewhat from public view, offering Obama extra space to curb deportations for other segments of the immigrant population, a step he’s indicated he plans to take around the end of summer.
This week, the federal agency charged with housing the children announced it would soon suspend operations at three temporary shelters with a total of about 3,000 beds. Government officials said the existing network of federally contracted shelters would suffice, at least for now. The shelters could reopen later, if needed.
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Hennessy-Fiske, M. (2014, June 23). Texas governor warns of ‘trail of tears’ from border crisis. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-crisis-20140624-story.html
Sherman, C. (2014, August 7). Flow of Child Immigrants Slows Along Texas Border. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/flow-child-immigrants-slows-texas-border-24887486?singlePage=true