The surge of illegal crossings by unaccompanied children into the United States last summer was primarily driven by fear of crime, violence and economic instability in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according to a newly issued report by the Government Accountability Office
— but debate over President Barack Obama's executive amnesty orders also contributed.
The rush was further accelerated by the desire to unify families, for better educational opportunities, and by smuggling networks that promote illegal immigration, the GAO said.
The number of "unaccompanied alien children" apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border in fiscal year 2014 was almost 69,000, compared to 24,000 in fiscal year 2012.
The GAO analysis is based on answers to a set of questions from State Department, USAID and Department of Homeland Security officials responsible for addressing the illegal migrant crisis.
Conservatives have pointed to Obama administration policies as encouraging illegals to try crossing into the United States. The GAO report was seen as bolstering the argument that the immigration debate may have contributed to an increase in illegal crossings, according to The Washington Times
Citing the GAO report, the Times said that rumors of a possible mass legalization of immigrants in the U.S. that were circulating in Latin America encouraged people there to believe that once in the country, they would stand a good chance of not facing deportation.
A State Department official indicated that "some Hondurans believed that comprehensive immigration reform in the United States would lead to a path to citizenship for anyone living in the United States at the time of reform," the report said.
Smugglers in El Salvador and Guatemala "spread misinformation about U.S. immigration policies, creating misperceptions among migrants," the report said.
The State Department has spent $10,000 on advertising to combat the misinformation about U.S. immigration policies. The Department of Homeland Security is also spreading a similar message to counter smugglers, according to the GAO.
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