Surge of Illegal Children, Families Accelerates

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, October 21, 2015

The surge of children and families crossing the southwest border illegally accelerated again in September, leaving fiscal year 2015 the second-worst on record, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Border Patrol.

Agents caught 4,476 children traveling without parents on the border last month and 5,273 parents and children traveling as families–both of those nearly twice the level of September 2014, suggesting that smugglers have once again stepped up their efforts to entice Central Americans to make the crossing.

It was a disappointing end to a year that began with major drops in illegal crossings, leading officials to say they may have been on track for the lowest pace since the early 1970s.

Instead, the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 with mixed news of a drop in children and families from 2014, but a year-end trend that suggested the problem is far from solved.

Border Patrol officials in Washington blamed violence and poor economic conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for pushing illegal immigrants to flee their homes and head north, but agents on the ground said the problem is lax U.S. enforcement, which entices migrants to make the dangerous journey, assured that they will be allowed in the U.S. rather than turned away at the border.

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Central American families and children caught at the border are given papers setting court dates but are then released into the U.S. The government calls those documents “notices to appear,” but the illegal immigrants regularly refer to them as “permisos,” or free passes, because they give tentative permission to be in the country while they await their court appearances.

“In Border Patrol circles, that paperwork is now known as the ‘notice to disappear’–80 percent, 90 percent of those folks will not show up for that hearing,” Mr. Cabrera testified.

Illegal immigrants have even begun posting photos of their permisos on social media, telling friends and family how easy it is to gain access to the U.S., investigators told Congress.

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In fiscal year 2015, border agents caught nearly 40,000 children, down from 68,541 the previous year. Another 40,000 parents and children, down from 68,445 in 2014, were caught traveling together.

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