American Legal System allows for Immigrant Children to Stay Illegally on U.S. Soil
“If you’re asking if we can take an unaccompanied child on the border and return it directly to Guatemala, I do not think the law allows us to do that,” said the US Secretary of Homeland Security.
Although the White House has said that thousands of young immigrants who are illegally crossing the border will end up being deported, experts and members of the Obama Administration recognize that the current immigration system allows them to start a life in the U.S. This fact added to document proof that the United States government actively promoted the arrival of thousands of children from Mexico and Central America and assisted them on arrival makes it very unlikely that these children will be returned to their home countries.
“You really are going to deport a five year old?” This is the question raised against anyone who dares suggest that any unaccompanied minor who arrived to the United States through the Mexican border must be sent back. The questions was posed this week by Republican Representative, Peter King, who questioned whether these children should be sent to their home countries or not.
Although the answer would be a simple YES to anyone who understands and wishes to stand beside existing law, such answer becomes a more complex affair when taking into account the legal framework that involves several departments of the federal government of the United States, the current immigration system and a suggested lack of financial and logistical resources to respond to the arrival of at least 65,000 undocumented immigrants.
King’s insistence flustered secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, who attempted to explain to Congress the reason why these children have arrived and why did the US government promoted their arrival. The Obama administration has sought to reiterate the message that no child who arrives illegally in the country can benefit from the measures already adopted, such as delaying the deportation of students without papers or others that are being studied as part of the so-called immigration reform.
Obama even sent his vice president, Joe Biden, to Guatemala, to window-dress the American government irresponsible actions – or lack of them – when managing border security. Biden flew to Central America to talk to senior government representatives of the Central American region, which is the main source of illegal immigrants to the US.
As it is common with the Obama Administration, secrecy and lack of straight answers are an everyday occurrence, so despite having an official position on immigration, people like Biden are far from being clear about what will happen with the tens of thousands of children who have already crossed the border.
Where have gone those more than 52,000 children intercepted at the border? How many have been already delivered to a family in the United States? And above all, how many of them have filed an immigration case or have been effectively deported? These are some of the questions for which the US Government does not have straight answers, even though the very same Obama administration instigates the arrival of immigrant children. The only sure thing about the Obama Administration’s management of this crisis is that it has fumbled it as it did with many others.
Back Doors in US Law May Allow Children to Stay
U.S. law provides different conditions for undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Canada, who it may return to their place of origin. However, in the case of undocumented migrants from other nations, the process is different. It starts with the arrest of those illegal immigrants during a period of 72 hours after their arrival if requested by the Border Patrol Police, who under Federal Law can indeed ask for their arrest and delivery to the Office of Refugee and Resettlement.
Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), acknowledged this week before Congress that the U.S. can not meet these deadlines of 72 hours due to the intense flow of immigrants. In addition to this delay, after children spend an average of 35 days in the premises of the Office for Refugees, “there are two options,” to choose from says Wendy Young, director of the KIND organization, which specializes in the legal defense of minors.
“They are sent to military bases in Texas, Oklahoma and California.” Those military bases have been already filled with illegal children, which have turned the bases into military refugee camps. But those bases have limited space. According to the Office for Refugee, there is capacity to accomodate between 5,000 and 7,000 beds.”
The question is, what will happen with the other 60,000 children? Will more military bases be turned into camps? Experts say that the few official figures available to these organizations is provided by the report of the Congressional Oversight Office. This document ensures that 90% of children who have come alone to the border have been brought into contact with a relative or guardian in the United States. The rest are delivered to social services to find them a foster family.
“Our hope is that the faster we deliver to relatives or foster homes, while continuing the legal process, the less beds we will need,” says Fugate. “We have expanded the capacity of our facilities but the number of children has also increased, which is why we cannot meet the 72 hour limit.” This is a convenient excuse from Mr. Fugate if it wasn’t because they United States had already foreseen the arrival of these children.
As we reported on June 20, the Federal Business Opportunities office had requested — on January 29 — Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children who would cross the Mexican-American border. So, the United States government knew that these children were coming and let them in.
In fact, several government agencies had advanced knowledge about the arrival of the children. The Federal Business Opportunities request says that ICE as part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is involved in the process of “accepting custody of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from U.S. Border Patrol and other Federal agencies and transporting these juveniles to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States.”
According to regular procedure, children who leave the facility must be submitted to the immigration authorities 15 days later. At that time they enter the legal immigration system and deportation process, but experts agree that the backlog of cases in the migration process to the system-average takes more than 500 days to resolve, and this means that many of these children will stay in the United States, have access to education and live in the U.S. as an undocumented alien.
The low estimate of 65,000 children will add the existing 30 million or so illegals who are already living in the country. Their arrival also leaves the door open for relatives of these children, such as parents or siblings, to make their way to the US under similar conditions.
This was acknowledged by the secretary of Homeland Security himself this week: “If you’re asking if we can take an unaccompanied child on the border and return it directly to Guatemala, I do not think the law allows us to do that,” said Johnson when answering Congressman Mike Rogers’ question about deportation procedures. In effect, this policy of no deportation will encourage more children and adult immigrants to push their way though Central America and Mexico to enter the United States illegally, where they know there will be no punishment.
The best case scenario for these children is making contact with friends or relatives who will immediately become their custodians. Children who are claimed by friends or relatives will no longer a priority for the Department of Homeland Security in charge of deportations since 2012, and they will remain illegally in the United States.
Both the US government and NGOs that work in support of illegal immigrants agree that the influx of undocumented children is attributable to the increase in violence and insecurity in Central America. “The violence has created a business opportunity for them,” advocated insist. “But children do not come voluntarily leaving their countries and their families. They would not leave if they were not living something terrible.”
Can the active participation of the US government in the arrival of tens of thousands of children be seen or understood as a humanitarian action? That will be for each and every American to judge. Experience shows that the imposition of measures that ultimately lead to the unnatural mixture of two cultures only serves to balkanize a society. The forced unification of people’s cultures in aspects such as religion, education, politics, finances and customs is now more than ever the most explosive way to crumble a country.
If the complex cultural aspect of this matter is not enough to make a decision, contemplate that the United States has been the main instigator of conflict and poverty in Central America and Mexico by promoting and supporting proxy wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador, among others. Also consider that the United States controls the operations of many of the Drug Cartels to which some US officials seem to blame for the current influx of children.