The Migration of Unaccompanied Children to the United States: Stumbling Towards a Humanitarian Solution

On June 20, 2014, the White House announced the expansion of comprehensive measures to address the increased flow of unaccompanied migrant children arriving to the US-Mexico border.  The Obama Administration will partner with Central American governments and Mexico on a plan to address the root causes driving migration from the region.  Over the next five years, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will implement aid programs to combat gang violence, increase services and educational opportunities for at-risk youth, promote economic development and strengthen citizen security in Guatemala ($40 million), El Salvador ($25 million) and Honduras ($18.5 million).[1]  An additional $161.5 million will be provided under the Central American Regional Security Initiative to support rule of law, human rights and anti-gang programs. The US Government will also provide $9.6 million to Central American governments to support the reintegration of their repatriated citizens.

This announcement follows the appointment of an inter-agency Unified Coordination Group, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on June 2, 2014 to respond to the humanitarian needs of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border.[2]  The number of unaccompanied children arriving to the border is expected to exceed 70,000 in 2014.  According to statistics reported by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), 52,193 unaccompanied children ages 17 and younger have been apprehended at the border between October 1, 2013 and June 15, 2014, a 99 percent increase from the prior fiscal year.[3]

The Administration is also deploying enforcement resources to increase detention capacity and expedited removal of adults who cross with children into the United States.  On June 20, 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the establishment of a temporary facility on the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s (FLETC) campus in Artesia, New Mexico.  According to a DHS press release, the facility is one of several that DHS is planning to utilize to hold and expedite the removal of adults with children.[4]

In his latest blog for The Huffington Post, CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin discusses important considerations for crafting an appropriate set of policy, operational and legal responses to the crisis.

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[1]http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/20/fact-sheet-unaccompanied-children-central-america

[2]http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/02/presidential-memorandum-response-influx-unaccompanied-alien-children-acr

[3]http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children

[4]http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/FACT-SHEET-ARTESIA-TEMPORARY-FACILITY-FOR-ADULTS-WITH-CHILDEN-IN-EXPEDITED-REMOVAL.pdf