Numbers show growing migration of Central American kids nothing new

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by DAVID SCHECHTER / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Sending a young child thousands of miles on a dangerous journey to illegally cross into America cannot be a decision a parent takes lightly.

But, if the trend of unaccompanied minors flooding into America holds, almost twice as many Central American parents are making that decision this year.

News 8 has obtained records from the United States Department of Justice showing, among other things, a 140 percent spike in cases from nations, like Honduras, and that this exodus started several years ago -— before it became front-page news.

Based on the pace of illegal crossings in the first half of this year, juvenile cases from Guatemala will go up an estimated 82 percent from last year; El Salvador an estimated 96 percent, and Honduras 138 percent.

Under a government contract, Catholic Charities provides orientation about the legal system to the people acting as custodians for unaccompanied minors from Central America. Vanna Slaughter is their director of Immigration and Legal Services.

“It means we’re having to do a whole lot more work, under this program, than we have funding to really do," she said. "But we have made a commitment to i,t and we have supplemented the contract we have, and make sure we see everyone who comes into see us. It’s really added to our workload."

And while this may look like a sudden crisis to most of us, the numbers tell a different story.

Look at Honduras: In 2011, there were about 1,000 juvenile cases in U.S. courts. In 2012, it jumped to about 2,700. Last year, over 6,000. This year, we’re on track for almost an estimated 14,500.

Representative Henry Cuellar, whose district is on the border, is a Democrat and he's challenging President Obama’s characterization that this is an emergency.

“This just didn’t happen last night. He’s asking for an emergency. If he looks at it, this has been going on for one year or two years," Cuellar said. "Why is he calling this an emergency funding when this happened a year, two years ago?"

But while some saw this coming, Slaughter from Catholic Charities suspects it wasn’t until this year’s huge surge in children — and the pictures of them in prison-like conditions – that the rest of us finally saw, too.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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