HOUSTON—Hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America are pouring over the border in Texas every month. Some estimates have 350 children arriving at the Texas border every day.
While actions along the Texas border develop into what many are calling a “humanitarian crisis,” hundreds in Houston who followed a different path to citizenship and are now naturalized Americans.
With an oath of citizenship and a pledge to the flag, 1,543 new Americans became sworn citizens Wednesday morning.
”It’s a great feeling,” said one of those new citizens, Juan Restrepo.
His 5-year-old daughter Valeria added, “I was excited for him to be an American.”
But in the middle of all of the joy there is another realization, that thousands of children are now entering this country at the border, not to a celebration, but to danger and despair.
”It’s really sad,” said newly naturalized citizen Marisol Martinez.
Martinez was sworn in Wednesday along with her parents and two siblings. They came to the U.S. from Mexico as children, legally and safely, but it’s easy to imagine that it could have gone another way.
”They have a dream, they just want a better opportunity, that’s the reason why they’re coming here,” said Martinez’s sister Aneth Zertuche.
They don’t realize that their children will wind up instead in crowded camps along the border, or may not make it at all.
”The risk that they are taking is the life of their own kids,” said Martinez.
U.S. officials say there is misinformation south of the border that once children cross over, they can stay in America, secure as the new citizens sworn in Wednesday morning.
”I think we need to be more informed as to how immigration works,” said Zertuche.
The Obama administration is launching a public information campaign to warn parents away from the dangerous journeys, as the new Americans hold their children tighter, those lucky enough to be born into safety.
”She’s aware of it,” said Zertuche of her 9-year-old-daughter. “She knows that there are struggles and she’s lucky and she needs to take advantage of the opportunities that we have.”
The Obama administration has also slated more than $250 million for Central American governments. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says they’re building “increased detention capability for adults who bring their kids into the country to expedite their removal and return back to their home nations.”