Stories of thousands of unaccompanied minors flooding our southern border continue to dominate the news and may pose serious obstacle to passing immigration reform. An unprecedented number of young children are crossing into the U.S.–an estimated 60,000 will have arrived by the end of the fiscal year according to DHS projections–and many of them aren’t even trying to avoid detection. Most are coming from Central American countries that do not as yet have agreements set up with the U.S. that would allow them to be sent back to their home countries once apprehended.
Parents are sending kids largely because of fears of violence in their own counties and hope that the children will be given an opportunity to stay in the U.S. But those hopes are false, driven by misunderstanding of the administration’s Deferred Action program, which allowed only those who had come as children and were present in the U.S. before June 15, 2012, and who had completed high school to apply for temporary deferment. These newcomers will not be allowed to stay in the U.S. but will likely end up held in overcrowded detention centers indefinitely.
Unfortunately, those opposed to immigration reform are thrilled to see this trend. It provides endless fodder for talk show hosts, horrific pictures for cable news to run on continuous loops, and it’s a great fund-raising tool for anti-immigration groups because it helps reinforce the view that our borders aren’t secure. The only hope to try to reverse this exodus is for pro-immigration forces to get actively involved. We must spread the word–here and in the sending countries–that these kids are in great danger, won’t get to stay in the U.S. except in jail-like settings, and will make it more difficult to pass immigration reform that might give their parents hope that someday they will be be allowed to come here legally. The only ones who benefit from the current situation are the criminal coyotes who extort money from desperate parents and the anti-immigration groups that like nothing more than a flood of negative stories about an “invasion” of unauthorized minors.