The surge in unaccompanied children apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border has created an unprecedented crisis, one that President Barack Obama has called an urgent humanitarian situation.
A new report by the Pew Research Center shows the number of children caught trying to cross the border has nearly doubled in less than a year. To address the growing crisis, the Obama administration has set up shelters in various states, including Arizona, Texas and California.
The report also breaks down where these children are coming from and why they are coming to the U.S. without a parent or guardian. Here are some highlights of the report:
How many children are coming?
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that between Oct. 1, 2013, and May 31 of this year, a total of 47,017 children under the age of 18 traveling to the U.S. without a parent or guardian were taken into custody. Thats nearly twice as high as all of the last fiscal year when 24,493 unaccompanied minors were apprehended.
- Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors could rise to 90,000 by the end of 2014. Thats nearly four times as many as the year before.
Where are they from?
- Three of every four unaccompanied children apprehended this year have come from Central American countries, like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Children who come from Mexico are more likely than those Central America to be deported quickly and reunited with family in their home country, in part because of agreements between the United States and Mexico governments.
- The biggest number of unaccompanied minors are from Honduras. This year alone, more than 13,000 unaccompanied children from Honduras have been apprehended at the border, compared with the 968 children apprehended five years ago.
- Why Honduras? The nation has been marred with gang violence, which has resulted in children fleeing the country to seek safe haven in the U.S.
Why are they coming?
- Obama administration officials have said the increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border could be due to violence and poor economies in the childrens home countries. Another reason could be the spread of rumors that children who arrive at the border without parents wont be deported.
- Republicans, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), say the surge is occurring because of the Obama administrations Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal program that has given two-year work permits and deportation relief to more than 600,000 undocumented young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. They blame that policy for creating rumors that the U.S. wont deport children.
- Children caught at the border are placed in deportation proceedings, and turned over to a family member in the U.S. who can care for them while their case moves through immigration court. If family cant be located, the children are placed in the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Where are they being apprehended?
- An estimated 71 percent of all apprehensions of unaccompanied minors this year have taken place at the U.S. Customs and Border Protections Rio Grande sector, which is located along the southernmost tip of Texas, and bounded by Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico. A total of 33,470 of all apprehensions of unaccompanied minors so far this year have taken place here.
- The sector with the next highest number is the Tucson sector in Arizona, which runs 262 miles along the U.S. border with Mexico. A total of 6,254 children have been apprehended there so far this year.