Tags: obama | child | immigration | crisis

Obama Administration Underestimated Child-Migrant Crisis

By    |   Friday, 29 August 2014 11:22 AM

Obama administration leaders said they knew last fall a record number of migrant children would cross the southern border this year, but they still underestimated just how many would arrive.

White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz told The Arizona Republic  that unlike in other years, the numbers of immigrants kept climbing into May and June.

"It became clear in May that we wouldn't have same trajectory, that the pattern was completely different," Munoz said. "When it became clear the pattern this year was not going to fit our projections, the president took immediate action."

As a result, the humanitarian crisis was already in full swing by June 2, when President Barack Obama declared the numbers were rising, and Americans started seeing the photos of hundreds of children huddled on the floors of the Border Patrol center in McAllen, Texas.

But wasn't just the Obama administration that was caught off guard by the children arriving from Central America, reports the paper. The departments of Homeland Security, which is in charge of Customs and Border Protection, and Health and Human Services, required to take custody of the minors 72 hours after they arrive, also were not prepared for the surge.

However, reports The Republic, a year earlier, Homeland Security commissioned a study through the University of Texas El Paso about how to handle an increase. HHS has reported in October 2013 that the immigrant numbers would double to 60,000 by 2014, and Homeland Security agreed with that estimate.

The projection did not include Mexican minors, as they are almost immediately sent back home. But a federal law passed during former President George W. Bush's administration states that children not from Mexico or Canada are to be given the opportunity for a hearing before being deported.

"Nobody can say there was any lack of information," Donald Kerwin, executive director of the New York-based nonpartisan think tank Center for Migration Studies noted. "Some DHS officials were encouraging us to study that 18 months ago. By late last year, everybody knew the numbers would at least double. People knew it was a humanitarian crisis."

Back at the White House, officials said they were prepared for 60,000 children, with HHS and Homeland Security increasing their budget requests based on those numbers.

This wasn't the first time the numbers of Central American children jumped. The totals went up by 27 percent in 2011, 42 percent in 2012, and by 55 percent in 2013.

Munoz, though, said the pattern changed this year. In the past, the numbers climbed between January and April before peaking in May and dropping in the summer.

But in 2014, the numbers kept climbing, and now Homeland Security says there may be as many as 90,000 children crossing the border by the end of September. Already, there have been 65,602 such children apprehended, surpassing the agencies' initial estimates. However, the numbers are starting to fall, from 354 a day in June, 177 every day in July and 104 daily in August.

The agencies have also been changing directors during that time, with former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano leaving in September 2013 and not being replaced until December. 
In addition, Customs and Border Patrol and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement did not confirm directors during some of that time.

Customs had not had a director for three years, until the Senate confirmed Gil Kerlikowske, and Immigration did not have a director from July 2013 until March 2014, when Thomas Winkowski took the job.

Having acting directors was not the same "as having an appointee who can really carry an issue when there needs to be some serious advocacy and persuasion within the administration," said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

But the new officials also were slow to grasp the situation. Neither Johnson nor Kerlikowske indicated needing more resources this spring when lawmakers asked them about the mounting situation. Johnson finally took action in May, after visiting the McAllen center, and appointed Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ron Vitiello to head an agency-wide effort on the issue.

In June, Obama directed a concerted effort among several federal agencies, and finally by July 8, he asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the crisis, in part to help Homeland Security and HHS with their mounting spending issues.

And as Congress rejected the effort, Obama is expected to take executive action  in September, almost a full year after the warnings about the immigrant surge started.

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Obama administration leaders said they knew last fall a record number of migrant children would cross the southern border this year, but they still underestimated just how many would arrive. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz told The Arizona...
obama, child, immigration, crisis
Friday, 29 August 2014 11:22 AM
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