EL PASO, Texas -- The crisis created by the mass migration of Central American children that overwhelmed the Border Patrol was documented by researchers hired by the Department of Homeland Security last fall.
The numbers have been trending for several years now, said Kyle Susa, Research Assistant Professor, National Center for Border Security and Immigration at the University of Texas at El Paso
This isn t just an issue that s arisen recently, but has arisen but it s something that could have been predicted well down the road, said Susa.
According to the center the number of unaccompanied children from Central America steadily climbed from 5,236 in 2011 to 10,759 in 2012 and 24,481 in 2013. So far this fiscal year it has surpassed 60,000 and may top 90,000 by October 1.
The crisis on the border took center stage this summer as the number children from Central American reached a critical mass overwhelming Border Patrol agents. But signs of agents struggling to keep up with the influx were evident in October of 2012 when the UTEP team visited the Rio Grande Valley.
We saw and heard about Border Patrol doing a lot of different things on a daily basis to provide for the children such as making grocery store runs, making sandwiches, taking children to facilities where they can shower doing laundry, said Susa.
The Department of Homeland Security hired the UT El Paso Center for Border Security and immigration to study the impact of the influx of children and so the Border Patrol, ICE and the Office of Refugee and Resettlement create a more efficient ways of handling the growing number of kids crossing the border alone.
The biggest challenge was complying with a law requiring the Border Patrol transfer minors to qualified temporary shelters within 72 hours of being detained.
Health and Human Services would take custody while authorities try to locate a relative in the U.S. who could care for the child while his or her case was decided by an immigration court.
A lack of temporarily shelters, led to severe overcrowding in Border Patrol detention centers that were never designed to hold kids.
The sheer number started to overwhelm the capacity, said Victor Manjarrez Jr., a former Border Patrol Station Chief who led the UTEP study.
The next crisis will no doubt play out in immigration courts as the Obama administration pushes to expedite deportations of children.
I d be curious to see what they have done to prepare for this mass influx that s going to come into to their court system,
Washington should anticipate the impact as the children s cases move through the legal process.
I remain hopeful but the track record isn t good, said Manjarrez.