Wave of Minors on Their Own Rush to Cross Southwest Border


[...] The Obama administration says the primary cause of the influx of children is rising crime and ailing economies in Central America, not policy changes in the United States.

To deal with the surge, the administration on Monday used a California naval base to house recently apprehended minors and ordered the federal emergency administrator to develop a plan of action.

“We have heard sort of rumors and reports, or suggestions, that the increase may be in response to the perception that children would be allowed to stay or that immigration reform would in some way benefit these children,” said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, in a conference call with reporters on Monday. “It seems to be quite clear that what is driving this is what’s happening in their home countries.”

Officials said that recently arrived children would not benefit from the immigration bill passed by the Senate last year or from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that lets minors who meet certain criteria avoid deportation.

But even as the government moves to confront the situation, children, parents, immigration officials, lawyers and activists interviewed say that there has been a subtle shift in the way the United States treats minors.

That perception has inspired parents who have not seen their children for years to hire so-called coyotes, guides often associated with organized crime, to bring them north. It has prompted other parents to make the trip with toddlers in tow, something rarely seen before in the region.

“If you make it, they take you to a shelter and take care of you and let you have permission to stay,” Robin said after he stepped off a bus on a Thursday night with eight others caught on their way north. “When you appeal your case, if you say you want to study, they support you.” [...]


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