The ongoing influx of people, mostly children and women, illegally entering the US from Central America by crossing the Mexican borders in Arizona, California and Texas is unprecedented. It started as a trickle in October 2013, but now, it is a deluge estimated at 47,000 women and unaccompanied children, some as young as one month old.
Notably, instead of running away from the border patrol officers, they approach them without hesitation, courting compassion and reminding them of parental guilt. They appeal to the law-enforcement personnel who have been trained to focus on coyotes and drug traffickers.
The modus operandi of “crossing the border” has significantly changed in perspective and style. There is no more regard for the perils of such an approach. The objective is to reach the perceived sanctuary, which is the United States soil. They claim to pay at least $7500, and they brave the two-week trek because they were led to believe that there are “free for all” work permits for individuals who show up at the border.
Unlike the usual illegal entrants from Mexico who come in on a daily basis, these migrants cannot simply be asked to turn around and walk back because they came from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries not connected by land to the US. The US government is obliged to send them back properly to their country by airplane, after they are found unworthy to stay in the United States.
This due process of law will cost an initial $3.9 billion (based on President Obama’s request), and because there is no end in sight, more money is needed for border security. At present the borders are not equipped to accommodate the big number of illegal entrants because shelter and detention centers are in short supply.
So, should the US airlift them en masse? It should if it could although it has not ratified the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, but special rules apply to children who happen to be seeking entry into the United States.
Principle 9, first paragraph of UN Convention states, “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic in any form. Mothers, who come with their infants, ought to have the same protection. Under existing procedure, children four or eight or 17 years old, are to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) within 72 hours after their entry. DHHS is the agency in charge of taking care of unaccompanied children on US soil. DHHS looks for any next of kin in the US and reunite them with family.
In the meantime, these dispersed “border crossers” are evaluated whether they have reason to seek refuge in the US. In legal immigration parlance, this means that they are applying for asylum.
It was reported that poverty, gang-related violence and, in numerous instances, heinous crimes such as rape, attempted murder, sexual and physical abuse drove them out of their country, and they fear of more harm if they return.
As of now, immigration courts, detention centers and ICE officers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases they are processing. Applicants are given hearing dates and instructed to appear before the immigration judge. Whether they will appear or not is, of course, another story. Yes, some of them have electronic ankle bracelet monitors. Perhaps a non-intrusive NSA tracking system could be put to good use to expedite proceedings.
Why is this happening? What is the message to those who have struggled and continue to struggle with the system to legalize their presence here? Because they come from countries that are geographically cut off the US, it takes years before they can be reunited with their families. They wait patiently for the completion of paper work.
Why do others have it the easy way? Or is it really “the easy way”?