About 39,000 immigrant children are expected to enter the country illegally as unaccompanied minors this federal fiscal year, reaching the second-highest level of that migration since 2008, says an analysis issued Wednesday by a research group in Washington, D.C.
The estimate by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit that studies the movement of people across international borders, is based on apprehension figures issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the first five months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2014, and ends Sept. 30.
Many of the children coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala likely will be resettled where there are established Central American communities, such as Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, said Marc Rosenblum, the report’s author.
“They are coming from similar communities and are headed to similar communities,” said Rosenblum, deputy director of the institute’s U.S. Immigration Policy Program. “The local impact is that whatever challenges school districts and local health care systems are under already are likely to increase.”
The second wave of immigrants, as some are calling it, is expected even as localities and school systems struggle to absorb about 53,500 children who arrived in the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2014. Those minors continue to move through a multistep immigration court process to decide whether they can stay or are to be deported.
In addition to unaccompanied minors, children also arrive in the United States with their mothers or other relatives, a trend that is expected to continue. Those children are counted separately in federal statistics as being part of family units.
Groups that want stricter enforcement blame the federal government for inaction as taxpayers bear the costs. They want immigrant children turned back at the border.
“Unless the federal government dramatically changes its policies on how they deal with the new arrivals, we can expect to see almost the same number of new arrivals as we did last year, because there’s no reason for them to stay” in Central America, said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that wants strict enforcement.
The Migration Policy Institute’s analysis, though, calls the federal government’s efforts “a success” because the flow of immigrant children is declining. It credited, in part, a “multifaceted regional policy response” by the United States in partnership with Mexico and Central American nations that “greatly reduced” illegal crossings since last year.
Marsha Catron, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees several immigration agencies, said the federal government sent more patrol agents to secure the border, built detention space and launched a campaign in Central America to highlight “the dangers of the journey.”