Opinion Columns & Blogs

Stemming the flood of young immigrants

The explosion of illegal crossings by unaccompanied minors is not the result of inadequate border security. The youths are being captured right at the border — by the tens of thousands. In fact, many are surrendering without even trying to run.

Hiring more Border Patrol officers won’t stem the flood of young people — now around 52,000 — that is overwhelming federal detention facilities. The problem is a lack of space to hold the detained children, along with a severely understaffed immigration court system to process them and other migrants in a timely fashion.

The administration and Congress share the blame for the crisis. They have repeatedly failed to agree on changes that would enable Homeland Security to cope with the flow and more quickly dispense with immigration court cases.

Texas has more than 55,000 cases pending, and the average wait time is 434 days for a case to be adjudicated, according to Syracuse University’s Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse, which compiles immigration court statistics.

Central Americans outnumber all other groups, including Mexicans, awaiting trial.

A rampant rumor mill in Central America has convinced young migrants that their capture is merely a temporary obstacle and that detained children are quickly released to family members and granted permission to remain here. The rumor is partly true: Because of overcrowding at federal facilities, thousands of children are being released for humanitarian reasons while their removal cases proceed.

U.S. officials only now are working to get the real story out. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Guatemala last week to warn that the trip is far too dangerous for children under any circumstances.

The Central American and Mexican governments are showing appalling levels of indifference to this crisis. They look the other way or even facilitate the trip through some of Mexico’s most dangerous terrain.

The Mexican government’s long-held philosophy has been that as long as the migrants are U.S.-bound, it’s not Mexico’s problem. Washington should declare that stance unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is the Central American governments’ unwillingness to say unequivocally that parents are criminally derelict if they abandon their children to this insane migration quest.

U.S. politicians who refuse to address immigration until the border is secure are now seeing the consequences. Reform must include revamping the clogged immigration court system, streamlining removal procedures and hiring more immigration court judges so the backlog doesn’t inadvertently add more fuel to the Central American rumor mill.

The Dallas Morning News