By Terence P. Jeffrey
- The Department of Health and Human Services is estimating in its new budget proposal that the number of unaccompanied alien children who will be caught having illegally entered the United States will rise to 60,000 in fiscal 2014.
That is up about 815 percent from the 6,560 unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who were apprehended in the U.S. only three years ago in fiscal 2011.
“Since FY 2011, the annual number of arriving UAC has increased from 6,560 to an estimated 60,000 for FY 2014,” says HHS’s “Budget in Brief.”
A fact sheet published by HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), whose Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for dealing with minors illegally entering the United States without their parents or a legal guardian, indicates that beginning in FY 2012, and continuing in FY 2013, the number of these children skyrocketed.
“On average between 7,000 and 8,000 children are served annually in this program,” says the fact sheet. “In Fiscal Year 2012 (October 1, 2011 – September 30, 2012), this number jumped dramatically, with a total of 13,625 children served by ORR that year. In FY2013, this overall increase continued, resulting in 24,668 UAC referrals from DHS for the 12-month reporting period.”
"An unaccompanied alien child is a child who has no lawful immigration status in the United States; has not attained 18 years of age; and, with respect to whom, there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States, or no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody," says the fact sheet.
According to HHS, the vast majority of the unaccompanied alien children arriving in the U.S. come from Central America—not Mexico.
“Most are over 14 and approximately three quarters of them are boys,” says the ACF fact sheet. “In FY 2013, origin of youth in this program was as follows: Guatemala (37%); El Salvador (26%); Honduras (30%); Mexico (3%); Ecuador (2%); and Other (3%). Over the years, the breakdown per country of origin has remained relatively constant."
“Most children are placed into care because they were apprehended by immigration authorities while trying to cross the border; others are referred after coming to the attention of immigration authorities at some point after crossing the border,” says ACF. “The average length of stay in the program is currently near 35 days. Of the children served, some 85% are reunified with their families.”
ACF lists among the reasons unaccompanied children come to the U.S.: “To escape violence, abuse or persecution in their home countries. To find family members already residing in the United States. To seek work to support themselves, their family, or their own children. Were brought into the United States by human trafficking rings.”
The administration says it cannot now predict how many unaccompanied alien children will be discovered in the U.S. in fiscal 2015, which begins on Oct. 1.
“As directed by Congress, ACF is meeting with other government agencies--this has included the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice--in an effort to better understand the reasons for the increase in the number of UAC arrivals and develop strategies for managing rising UAC costs,” says the HHS Budget in Brief. “Due to the volatile nature of this program and ongoing discussions of a long term policy solution, the Administration is not able to reliably predict the number of UAC who will arrive in FY 2015 at this time."
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