Influx of immigrant children rooted in long-standing problem

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by Angela Kocherga / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 7:06 PM

EL PASO, Texas -- The huge influx of Central American children crossing the border has overwhelmed the Border Patrol and become a hot button issue in Washington, but the problems forcing children to cross the border have roots that go back decades.

“The Violence, that’s why we left,” said Norma Cupil, a Guatemalan immigrant. She fled from San Marcos with her 11 year old daughter named Darling and crossed the Texas-Mexico border in early June.

Back when this reporter talked to children on the Guatemala-Mexico border in 2002 many said violence was a factor but poverty and the desire to reunite with parents in the U.S. were also reasons many were making their way north.

“I was heading to the United States,” said a 9 year old from El Salvador. He was staying at a shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas with other kids after he was picked up by immigration authorities in Mexico.

Others were put on buses and deported with adults including a 13 year old boy from Honduras who witnessed his father’s murder back home. The security situation has only deteriorated more in the past twelve years since that youngster was sent back.

“Honduras is the most violent country in the world, “ said Patrick Timmons, a Latin American researcher.

Timmons joined shelters, churches, and organizations that help immigrant at a press conference to discuss the humanitarian response to the 270 families sent to El Paso.

They were put on planes in the Rio Grande Valley because the Border Patrol has no place to house children and women.

The families were released on their own recognizance but have to report to immigration court.

“Each one of these statistics is a human story where people are fleeing for their lives because they have no other choice left to them in order to maintain their survival,” said Timmons.

Children without parents were transported to other regions by plane but remained in custody.

“ICE works closely with other governmental and non-governmental agencies to fully support and coordinate these transportation efforts,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a statement issued to media.

“ICE is committed to safe, secure and humane services to the unaccompanied children temporarily in our care.”

The Department of Homeland Security which includes ICE and the Border Patrol estimates 90,000 unaccompanied children will cross the border illegally this year.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is asking the Department of Homeland Security for $30 million so the state can increase border security measures.

“The influx of child immigrants has so overwhelmed the U.S. Border Patrol that federal agents are devoting time and resources to the humanitarian aspects of the influx, and are not available to secure the border and successfully stop criminal activity,” said Abbott who is running for governor in a press release.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R, Texas in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing questioned whether the large numbers of children crossing the border are coming because they expect “amnesty” referring to DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“DACA is not amnesty is deferred action,” and secondly DACA applies only to people who came into this country as children prior to June 2007,” answered Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Critics of the Obama administration have suggested the spike in illegal crossings is the result of speculation about immigration reform.

“It is patently absurd that children and families in Central America and Mexico are paying attention to policy debates in Washington D.C.,” said Timmons.

All of the migrants caught face deportation proceedings –including Cupil and her 11 year old daughter Darling, They are allowed to stay in the U.S. while their immigration case moves through court.

It’s not clear the child understood she may be forced to return to Guatemala again.

“I’m happy to be here on the U.S. side,” said Darling.

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