Despite multiple attempts by the White House to tell families from Central America that unaccompanied children and teens will not be allowed to stay in the United States, the data show otherwise, the Los Angeles Times reports
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data obtained by the Times under a Freedom of Information Act request, the number of deportations at the border of immigrants under age 18 has steadily fallen since 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency.
In 2008, a total of 8,143 children and teens were deported, while the number dropped to 1,669 in 2013. Those numbers refer to immigrants from Mexico and Canada, which have borders with the United States.
But immigrants from noncontiguous countries, including the influx of children and mothers from Central America, can't be turned away at the border because of a U.S. law forbidding it. The numbers sent back home under those conditions also have fallen dramatically, the Times reported.
About 600 such minors were deported 10 years ago as opposed to only 95 last year.
Democrats blame the problem on a law signed by Bush in 2008 which was intended to protect children escaping from sex trafficking from being returned to their pimps. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, named for the English abolitionist who helped stop the slave trade in Great Britain, was sponsored by now Vice President Joe Biden and had three Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors.
Republicans, on the other hand, blame Obama's policies and rhetoric.
"The administration must first recognize its failed immigration and border policies are the source of the problem," Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul said Thursday at a congressional field hearing in his state.
Newspaper ads in Central America reportedly tell families their children can obtain a "permiso" to stay in the country if they arrive without parents and claim asylum for purposes of escaping violence. Most have a prepared script on hand and have phone numbers for contacting relatives already in the United States.
A humanitarian crisis has sprung up along the border as a result, as thousands of young people cross the border and surrender to overtaxed border agents. Many are raped or killed during the journey by the very people paid to transport them – Mexican drug cartels.
Obama has asked for more flexibility for Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to send the children back in an effort to discourage parents from sending more.
Under current law, children are allowed to plead their case for asylum, and those who succeed send word back to their home countries to tell others what works.
"Word of mouth gets back, and now people are calling and saying, 'This is what I said'" in court, a senior U.S. law enforcement official, told the Times. "Whether it is true or not, the perception is that they are successfully entering the United States. ... That is what is driving up the landings."
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