A child at a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Mexico.
A boy draws at the shelter for underage immigrants and repatriated minors "Mexico, my home" in Ciudad Juarez May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

President Barack Obama issued a memo on Monday warning that an explosion in numbers of unaccompanied minors seeking entry into the United States after fleeing countries in Central America constituted an “urgent humanitarian situation” and put Craig Fugate, head of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in charge of the government’s relief efforts. According to government estimates, about 60,000 children are expected to arrive on US soil this year -- in the past eight months, according to the Associated Press, some 47,000 have been apprehended at the southern border.

That number could reach as high as 130,000 next year -- up from between 6,000 and 7,500 between 2008 and 2011. In 2012 numbers began to climb precipitously, to 13,625 unaccompanied minors in 2012 and over 24,000 in 2013. Some come from Mexico, but the surge is driven by children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, many of whom say they’re fleeing crime, violence and poverty back home. Others are hoping to be reunited with family members living in the US.

The flood has caught the government off guard -- in south Texas, Health and Human Services recently opened a new office to coordinate efforts in the region. Thousands of children are being held on military bases in southwestern states, including Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, where the government opened a shelter capable of holding 1,200 people last month. Last week, the Obama administration asked Congress for an extra $1.4 billion in funding to help feed, house and transport those minors in HHS custody.

According to the VERA Institute of Justice, about 65 percent of those apprehended end up being placed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement with a sponsor living in the United States, though even then they remain removal proceedings. About 40 percent win the right to stay in the country.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.