Jessica Vaughan is the Director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies with an area of expertise in immigration policy and operations. Prior to joining the Center she was a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department.
Much media coverage has been given to the topic of unaccompanied alien children that are being detained at the U.S. southern border. The Trump administration has labeled this as a crisis yet the media, along with some members of Congress, seem to be just catching on to this fact.
Just how bad are things? Jessica reported that we’re seeing record numbers of adults bringing children, as well as children being brought over by smugglers, and turning themselves over to border patrol agents. In some sectors it’s up to 1,000 people per day and the numbers have exceeded the capacity of both the border patrol and ICE to keep people in custody.
If children arrive alone, they’re turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement which has a network of shelters, but they have no more capacity due to the great number of people coming here. This means the border patrol has to hold them in their facilities until they can be turned over to a local community group or they can be placed on buses to get to their final destination.
The adult aliens are arriving because they’ve been informed (sometimes by friends and family members who came illegally before them) that when they get here they’ll be taken into custody for a brief period and then released to continue to their destination inside the U.S. Then they’ll receive a date for a court hearing.
Some of them do fear having to return to their home nation but most don’t follow through by filing a complete asylum application. So they do receive a hearing in an immigration court but know that even if they don’t show up for their hearing (more than half will not), nothing will happen to them. They face no risk of having to go back to their home country, and they know that they’ll be allowed to remain here for an indefinite period.
If they do apply for political asylum, they’re able to receive a work permit and stay here legally for as long as five years until their asylum hearing takes place. This is why some individuals are willing to turn over their life savings to human smugglers and travel great distances, find a way over the border, and turn themselves in to authorities.
Jessica described the situation as ‘complete chaos’ and the facilities aren’t equipped to handle the numbers who have arrived. Making matters worse, some smuggling organizations are kidnapping or renting children to provide to adults who may not have a child so that they can be released into the U.S.
This situation has been at the crisis level since 2014, so the problem actually goes as far back as the Obama administration.
There’s much more to learn, and listeners provide their perspective as well, on this edition of Crosstalk.