BREAKING NEWS: The U.S. House of representatives has dropped a bill that would have provided some $659 million in funding to address the 60,000 unaccompanied children that have arrived on the southwest border. The Huffington Post noted that “… the bill had significant opposition from Democrats, but GOP leadership decided to add a separate vote, if the first were to pass, on a measure meant to bring on conservative support: ending a key Obama policy that allows undocumented young people in the U.S. for years to remain in the country.
Citing other reports, HuffPo says the GOP needed to get to 218 votes but managed only 214.
The HuffPo backgrounder graf is pretty good: “More than 57,500 unaccompanied children and teenagers have been apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally since October, overwhelming a system already plagued by backlogs and in need of significant resources. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis, and Senate Democrats proposed a $2.7 billion package. House Republicans introduced a bill to approve just a fraction of that sum — with the possibility of appropriating more funds later — with conditions many Democrats oppose, such as changing a 2008 law so unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada can be deported more quickly and sending the National Guard to the border.”
Read the report here:
New data released by the U.S. government and reported by the New York Times indicates that “… the vast majority of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in the United States from Central America this year have been released to relatives in states with large established Central American populations, according to federal data…”
The NYT story says that “… a total of 30,340 children have been released to sponsors — primarily parents and other relatives — from the start of the year through July 7, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has overseen the care of the children after they are turned over by Customs and Border Protection. More children have been released in Texas than in any other state, with sponsors there receiving 4,280 children, followed by New York with 3,347. Florida has received 3,181 children and California 3,150. Maryland and Virginia have each also received more than 2,200 children.”
The largest single area for receiving children was Los Angeles. While no state is actually providing legal representation for all children, the California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, noted the Times, “… said this week that she had personally appealed to lawyers in the state to help represent the children in immigration court.”
The Washington D.C. ABC News affiliate is picking up the crisis at the border, with some fairly in-depth information on the legal representation aspect of the ongoing border crisis of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in the U.S. Says Chanel 7: “The Department of Homeland Security predicts almost 60,000 unaccompanied children
will arrive this year at the Southwest border – mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Many of the children are fleeing gang violence and poor economic opportunities. Sixty percent have potential claims
for international protection and must have access to the U.S. asylum system, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”
The report notes a study “analyzing data on 100,000 juvenile cases in immigrant courts [that] found that when a child appeared without a lawyer, nine out of 10 were deported.”
For the “about time” file, discussion of the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied Central American children seeking refuge in the U.S. is moving beyond theories and finger-pointing to address the capacity issue. And that issue is that there’s not enough court capacity.
The Reuters news service has a sobering report that walks us through the numbers: “… U.S. immigration courts have a backlog of 375,373 cases, almost 50,000 more than they faced two years ago, according to Justice Department figures… one of the 243 judges presiding over 59 immigration courts in the United States, is setting hearing dates as far off as 2018. It now typically takes three to five years for cases to clear the system, judges and lawyers said… on a recent Wednesday at a crowded immigration court in Arlington, Virginia, a judge was setting February 2017 asylum hearings for juveniles. While Reuters does not mention it, we would add that this is possible because immigration courts are civil, not criminal, and thus exempt from decades of “timely trial” laws.
The report does cite budget cuts and other problems, like passing more complex laws without increasing capacity to implement the changes, but also says that the government’s planned solutions are likely to only make things worse.
Debate over the immigration crisis of unaccompanied Central American children is shifting from immediate needs like housing and toward the role of the United States in creating the causes for the influx. An editorial blog from The Dallas Morning News explains why understanding the U.S. role is so important: “If Central American minors can make a credible claim that deportation would expose them to persecution or sexual exploitation in their home countries, U.S. immigration judges are likely to be lenient and let them stay. But the bar is set very high — and for a good reason.”
As stories surface about U.S.-based gangs operating in the countries of origin for the children, you can expect that debate over “causes” to increase. And how the civil immigration courts manage to verify any claims is going to be interesting.