Influx of minors from Central America creates ‘urgent humanitarian situation’

U.S. officials predict that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors will cross the U.S.-Mexico border this year. [Chicago Reporter file photo]

U.S. officials predict that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors will cross the U.S.-Mexico border this year. [Chicago Reporter file photo]

An increase in children entering the United States from Mexico and Central America the last few months has overwhelmed Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security, creating what President Barack Obama has called an “ urgent humanitarian situation.” As a result, the Obama administration is opening more emergency shelters andVice President Joe Biden is visiting Guatemala on Friday to discuss the influx with Central American leaders.

According to the Pew Research Center, 47,017 unaccompanied minors were taken into custody between Oct. 1, 2013, and May 31, which is almost twice as high as all of last fiscal year.

The increase in young Central American immigrants could be due to violence and poverty in their home countries and rumors that children who arrive without their parents will not be deported, officials said.

The Justice Department’s program, announced June 6, plans to provide $2 million to entice attorneys and paralegals to represent undocumented immigrant minors.

The Obama administration has created a task force, which will coordinate the services of federal government agencies that come into contact with the minors as they are placed in protective care.

The projected cost of caring for and resettling these children could be $2.28 billion in fiscal 2015, according to federal budget sources. Congress is considering 12 bills that set spending levels for federal agencies, which will be affected by the increase in minors.

The administration and advocates predict that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors will cross the border this year.

In March, President Obama ordered the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a system-wide review of immigration laws. The department is considering various options, such as allowing immigrants without criminal records to stay in the U.S. and allowing undocumented minors to join the military.

Images of minors in custody have been leaked to the public. Over the weekend, CNN and NBC aired videos on the increase in unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S.

To learn more about the experiences of immigrants, check out NPR’s interactive series, “Borderland.”

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