The situation along the US-Mexico border involving thousands of migrant children has raised a lot of questions these past few weeks. A recent Chicago Tribune article does a fantastic job of summarizing a lot of the issues at play. Here is the background for those that have not been following too closely. About two months ago, the US states along the border began to see an influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the US border from Mexico into the United States. The flow of children continued to grow, overwhelming many of the US facilities along the border. Here are some answers to some questions that have been raised about the situation.
Firstly, where are these children coming from? Most are coming from Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, as well as Mexico. Recent flare ups in violence and unrest in those Central American countries have sent the children fleeing to neighboring countries. Most of the children are unaccompanied minors traveling without their parents.
Secondly, why can’t we just send them back to the country they came from? Under a 2008 law signed by President Bush, immigrant children from Central American countries not sharing a border with the US get special protections granting them an immigration or asylum hearing not granted to minors from Mexico. Under a proposal from President Obama, that extra step would be removed from the process and the minor would have to justify his or her stay upon apprehension by a border patrol agent.
Thirdly, what is the President proposing to do about the situation? President Obama has proposed spending an additional $2 billion to increase apprehension and processing of these children. Additionally, the President wants to make changes to a 2008 law that grants special protection for children from Central American countries that would speed up the process of removing them from the US, as noted above.
Fourthly, doesn’t this show that the US needs to address broader immigration reform? Many people are using this situation as an example of why the US needs to pass an immigration reform bill now. While proponents are hopeful that this situation will highlight the urgency for comprehensive immigration reform, the prospects of passing any such reform out of the House of Representative are slim to none this year.