Federal officials aren’t expecting a repeat of last summer’s surge of tens of thousands of Central American children flooding the southern border that led to a crisis in 2014, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The government attributed its prediction to stepped-up enforcement on the border and Mexico apprehending more of the children before they get to the United States.
About 68,000 unaccompanied minors, mainly from Central America, crossed into the U.S. last summer, inundating border patrol, which could not handle the workload. President Barack Obama received nearly $4 billion from Congress to redeploy agents and immigration judges to the border and expedite deportations. Unaccompanied children crossing the border rose 90 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
“I’m happy to say all the work we’ve done last year is bearing fruit,” Daniel Ragsdale, deputy director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Border Security Expo Wednesday in Phoenix, according to the AP. Also addressing the conference was Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald D. Vitello, who said “this year is far better off than last year.”
Progress was also being made in countries south of the U.S. border. In Mexico, 22,000 children from Central America were apprehended in nearly all of 2014, about three times as much that were apprehended in 2013, according to the AP.
The border crisis was believed to be fueled by misinterpretations of immigration law among Central Americans who believed the U.S. would not deport children who cross the border. The U.S. then created a public information campaign in the affected countries -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to let people know that the children would be turned away if they crossed the border.
Some immigration advocates in the U.S. have criticized the policy, pointing out that the children were fleeing violence and that they should have been granted amnesty, according to the AP. “The federal government’s response to the large influx of Central American children coming in has been nothing short of a policy that undermines our basic humanitarian and asylum laws,” Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the AP.