Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

A record number of migrants traveling with children have been apprehended at the border with a month to go in the fiscal year. Alfredo Corchado and Diane Solis of the Dallas Morning News report that the "renewed surge in Central American family migration is overwhelming private shelters and U.S. immigration holding centers."

Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson Center predicts that the surge will continue until the poor conditions in the sending countries improve. Without question, "extreme violence, desperate poverty, and ineffective governments" are powerful reasons to leave a country. Then there is the question of what determines a migrant's choice of destination. Why, for instance, choose the United States instead of Mexico where improved economic conditions have slowed out-migration? Central Americans pass through Mexico on their way to the United States. Answers to that question include reuniting with separated family members who have resettled in the U.S., the value of the dollar over the peso, and the probability of reaching the interior and finding a job (migrants from El Salvadore, Honduras and Guatemala overwhelmingly cite work as a top reason for coming to the U.S.).

E-Verify is an obvious solution to the jobs magnet that Congress and the White House have declined to advance. Ending the catch-and-release policies that encourage illegal immigration is a bit more complicated.

As the New York Times reported earlier this year, economic migrants from Central America are using provisions in the immigration system designed to protect children to be released into the United States. Their increasing numbers (and some efforts to deter them) have filled detention centers designed, as The Dallas Morning News reports, for working-age men.

Former immigration judge Andrew R. Arthur describes three loopholes that encourage illegal entry:

First, migrants who claim "credible fear" avoid immediate removal:

In 2009, according to Attorney General Sessions, the Obama administration began releasing aliens found to have credible fear.As a likely result, the number of credible fear reviews increased significantly, from 5,000 in 2009, to 94,000 in 2016. In fact, prior to 2013, only 1 percent of arriving aliens claimed credible fear, whereas currently 10 percent make such claims. The attorney general has stated that half of those who pass credible fear screening never file an asylum application, however. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lacked detention space to hold all aliens who claimed credible fear in the past, and many were released for hearings that may occur years in the future. It is unclear whether DHS will be able to find sufficient space to detain aliens who are apprehended and are found to have credible fear pending a final decision on their applications for asylum, despite the department's best efforts.

The asylum system has been swamped by claims that will ultimately fail to win asylum -- Denial Rates by country: El Salvador (82.9%), Honduras (80.3%), and Guatemala (77.2%) -- but succeed in extending the migrants' stay in the U.S.

Second, an anti-trafficking law makes it difficult to return unaccompanied minors, even if they can't establish a "credible fear":

Between February 2014 and September 2015, 56,000 (80 percent) of the children were placed with sponsors illegally in the United States and an additional 700 were placed with sponsors in deportation proceedings.

Third, a court settlement ("the Flores agreement") has entrenched "catch-and-release":

The agreement, which was originally signed in 1997, has now been read to create a presumption in favor of the release of all alien minors, even those alien minors who arrive with their parents. As DHS has stated: "Under the Flores Agreement, DHS can only detain UACs for 20 days before releasing them to [HHS] which places the minors in foster or shelter situations until they locate a sponsor." The agreement encourages UACs to enter the United States illegally, and encourages the parents of UACs to hire smugglers to bring them to the United States. Further, it encourages people to bring their own children (or children whom they claim to be their own) when they make the perilous journey to the United States, thinking that it will make it more likely that they (the parents or purported parents) will be more likely to be released if they travel with children.

The Flores agreement is what makes it impossible - barring Congressional action - for the government to keep families together and enforce the law at the same time.

The establishment media frequently allude to these loopholes but seldom allow that closing them would substantially improve the border-related crises that make the headlines.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Updated: Fri, Dec 14th 2018 @ 6:59am EST

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