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Migrant Family Arrests Up, as Are Number of Detained Migrant Children
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13 Sep 2018 09:42 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Immigrants waiting entrance to U.S. (Image source: Screenshot)

 

Donald Trump's efforts to restrict the number of migrants entering this country has backfired on him. Not only was he forced to end his widely-panned family separation policy, but migrant family arrests were up nearly 40 percent in August, and the number of detained migrant children is at one of the highest levels ever three months after the program ended.

 

Homeland security officials have called migrant family members arrested for entering the U.S. illegally a "crisis" after the number increased dramatically to 38 percent last month.  

Nearly 13,000 members of "family units" were apprehended by Border Patrol last month, according to the latest data. This is the highest August total ever recorded. Usually migration numbers rebound at this point in the year, but there were 46,560 migrants apprehended or deemed "inadmissible" after only 40,011 a month earlier.

 

Department of Homeland Security officials blame this on the short length of time children are allowed to be detained in immigration jails. They believe parents bring their children as a way to earn a quicker release from custody and to avoid being deported. 

"The numbers have continued to increase because this is a well-known venue to arrive in the U.S. and be allowed to stay," said Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. He calls this trend "a crisis of significant proportions, from a humanitarian perspective and a security perspective."

 

Trump has blamed increases in migration numbers on Democrats who have blocked his attempts to build a border wall and who have not agreed to give him the funding it needs. 

Border Patrol agents who work in South Texas report that August was so busy there were rafts arriving across the Rio Grande with so many people on them that they had to be loaded onto Border Patrol buses.

 

Most family members arrive from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, with DHS officials believing Central America is recognizing "legal loopholes" in the U.S., as they realize the federal government has no way to stop parents who bring children with them. 

"Smugglers and traffickers understand our broken immigration laws better than most and know that if a family unit illegally enters the U.S., they are likely to be released into the interior," said DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton in a statement.

 

He explains the families that are released fail to depart and are not removed and says more than 98 percent of family members from Central America who arrived between October 2016 and this past June are still in the U.S. 

Hoping to dissuade migrant families from landing in the U.S., the Trump administration launched a "zero tolerance" policy in April that promised to separate children from their families.

 

While children were always separated if their parents were charged with a crime, the new policy promised all would be charged under "zero tolerance." The families who were seeking asylum after leaving frightening conditions in their homelands were all charged with entering the country illegally, and their children were separated from them.  

But this has caused the number of detained migrant children to also rise and be among the highest ever. The population in migrant children shelters has increased fivefold over a year ago  with 12,800 reported detained this month. There were only 2,400 detained in May 2017.

 

This is even after the Trump administration was court-ordered to return the children to their families. There are many children who were never returned. Either their families were deported without them or officials weren't able to locate the families. 

The New York Times reports that this isn't due to an increased influx of children entering the country but is instead a reduction in the number of children being released to live with sponsors, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

This report states most of these children crossed the border alone and that they weren't brought to the U.S. like pawns, as the other report states. The Times believes that close to the same number of children crossed the border this year as in years past. They see the difference as fewer relatives and friends willing to come forward to sponsor them.  

A year ago shelter capacities were around 30 percent, and since at least May, capacities have been around 90 percent. If there is a surge in crossings at the border, the system could become overwhelmed very quickly.

 

"The closer they get to 100 percent, the less ability they will have to address anything unforeseen," said Mark Greenberg, who oversaw migrant children care for the Health and Human Services Department under former President Barack Obama. "Even if there's not a sudden influx, they will be running out of capacity soon unless something changes." 

"The number of unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of a larger issue of a broken immigration system," stated Evelyn Stauffer, press secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement.

 

"That is why H.H.S. joins the president in calling on Congress to address this broken system and the pull factors that have led to increasing numbers at the U.S. border." 

However, with the numbers that were reported in relation to Trump's attempts to curb those numbers, it doesn't seem to change. It doesn't seem to be connected to loose borders. It seems to be connected to policy. While the policy is indeed broken, looking at the numbers from 2017 to 2018, the Trump administration seems to be the ones who broke it.

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