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Texas Preparing for the Sea of Children Immigrating to the US

This past week Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary, made a visit to a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas. Upon his visit, Johnson discovered that there is an overwhelming number of children that are immigrating to the US unaccompanied. After seeing the amount of children in the station, he declared a “level-four condition of readiness” in the Rio Grande Valley. This level-four condition of readiness allows Homeland Security to call upon other federal agencies for resources. It is also an alert that the agencies presiding over the border have been outstripped by the large number of unaccompanied minors that have attempted to immigrate into the US.

According to officials around 4,000 unaccompanied minors were caught while trying to cross the border in 2011. That number has risen to exceed 60,000 this year. By law, when a child is apprehended at the border, they are treated differently than adults. Border Patrol is required to turn the children over to a refugee resettlement office, within 72 hours. There are shelters maintained by the Health Department and private owners throughout South Texas, and many have recently been adding beds to prepare for the seasonal influx of children. None were prepared for an influx this large. The Department of Health and Human Services are planning to open a shelter for more children at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio because of the lack of room for all of the unaccompanied minors.

Johnson has begun reaching out to the officials of the countries that these children come from, hoping for their cooperation. His goal is to discourage the children from immigrating to the US illegally without an adult, and to encourage officials to discourage parents from sending their children. He states, “A South Texas processing center is no place for a child.”

For children and families that are taken into custody, the conditions they bare are less than ideal. For some, an immigration bond in Dallas is the only hope to temporarily see freedom and gain access to the legal counsel they need. 

For more information about immigration laws in Texas, visit our immigration blog