Unaccompanied minors at the border

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The New York Times published an excellent summary of the factors involved in the large number of children apprehended at the border.

Most of the children come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Most range in age from 15 to 17.

Complainers say the large number of border apprehensions of minors shows that the current administration is not protecting the border. If there was not border enforcement, then the large number of apprehensions would not be happening.

How should the minor children caught at the border be treated?

First, the children need to be effectively screened to see if they qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or for asylum. If a child possesses a clear case where SIJS relief applies or asylum clearly applies, then the child should not be placed in the Immigration Court system but rather allowed to submit an applications directly to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. This allows Immigration Court and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allocate resources to those without clear relief. I estimate these cases should be resolved within one year. USCIS should try to shorten processing times to four to six months.

Second, the children with possible SIJS cases or possible asylum cases should be placed in Immigration Court proceedings. Most of these children will be repatriated to their home countries but will be allowed the customary due process the United States affords. A small percentage eventually will be granted relief and will be allowed to stay in the USA. The overwhelming majority will be returned to their home countries. I estimate these cases will be resolved within two years. Efforts should be made to shorten these case processing times to one year.

Third, the children without possible SIJS cases or possible asylum cases should be allowed expedited voluntary departures to their home countries either through administrative action through Customs and Border Protection or through Immigration Court. I estimate these cases will be resolved within 60 days.

Any problems with the above? Admittedly, I have found that CBP many times does not conduct truthful border screenings of apprehended foreign nationals. For instance, a person might be a victim of serious abuse or violence. However, a “stenciled in” screening by a less than competent CBP officer would show the person did not express any fear of returning to their home country. I’d suggest that a person from a non-governmental organization (trained in child border issues) be present at every initial interview with a minor child.

I believe the first group would be approximately 20 out of 100 of those apprehended at the border. I believe the second group would be approximately 30 of 100 persons apprehended at the border with only six eventually qualifying to stay in the United States. Group three would be 50 out of 100. At the end of the day, I believe that approximately 26 percent of those minor children apprehended at the border will get to stay while 74 percent will be returned to their home countries.

I believe the Obama administration will try to repatriate a higher percentage… Maybe 80 percent… Maybe 90 percent. I do not favor the large spending increases requested by the Obama administration to deal with the problem. A modest request in spending should be a starting point. However, I do know that resources can be reallocated. For example, a major topic among immigration lawyers currently is the unprecedented numbers of requests for evidence in cases pending before USCIS. In most cases, USCIS possesses all the evidence needed to adjudicate an application. But, USCIS wrongly claims that it needs more evidence when the evidence being requested is sitting in the file at USCIS. Those USCIS workers should be reassigned to other duties to allow USCIS to efficiently process any surge in SIJS and asylum requests. And, RFEs should only be made in cases where evidence actually is missing rather than being used to justify numbers of employees for budget reasons. In the area of religious worker visas, USCIS could free up workers who seemingly presume every application to be fraudulent and instead narrow fraud queries to those denominations with a history of fraud.

In addition, even though the Obama administration appropriately has reallocated resources on enforcement, the strain of low priority cases that entered the enforcement system from 2007 to 2012 needs to be addressed by administratively closing those cases that lack a significant misdemeanor or felony conviction or history of immigration abuse.

I do not believe policy is driving the current migration. History consistently has shown that factors in the foreign national’s home country drive migrations. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are three of the most violent places in the world with Honduras having the highest homicide rate on the planet. I do not believe the USA should be the world’s police man or protector. However, I do believe that the USA made the wrong play by investing billions in China since the 1970s. That money would have been better invested south of our border thus perhaps making a more secure world closer to home than creating a super power half way across the world.