WASHINGTON – During today’s hearing, “The 2014 Humanitarian Crisis at Our Border: A Review of the Government’s Response to Unaccompanied Minors One Year Later,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, examined the ongoing progress and combined efforts among federal agencies to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors apprehended by border patrol agents along the U.S. southern border last summer.
“One year ago, a heartbreaking humanitarian crisis played out at our nation’s southern border when tens of thousands of women and children sought refuge and relief after a grueling journey from Central America,” Sen. Carper said. “These individuals — some of them children as young as four years old – arrived at our border after fleeing from desperate conditions, mostly in the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. To address the crisis, our government swung into action on multiple fronts. We sought to comply with the 2008 law signed by former President George W. Bush dealing with unaccompanied minors. We set up emergency shelters. We surged agents and immigration judges to border areas. And, we worked to find safe homes for the children until their cases could be adjudicated. Today, one year later, we no longer have a crisis. It is true that many children and families are still fleeing these countries, but the numbers are clearly down.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the number of unaccompanied minors coming to our southern border through June 1 of fiscal year 2015 is now 22,526 individuals, compared to 46,006 the same time last year. The decrease in migration can be attributed to efforts by the Administration to address the misinformation in Central America driving unaccompanied minors and families to make the dangerous journey. U.S. officials worked with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to launch “truth campaigns” about the dangers of the trip north. The U.S. also collaborated with the government of Mexico to help that nation strengthen the integrity of its southern border.
“But even though the crisis appears to be over, we still have humanitarian responsibilities to protect the children in our custody, and we have a moral obligation to treat them fairly under our laws,” Sen. Carper continued. “We must do this even as we try to resolve their cases more expeditiously and return to their own countries those who do not have grounds to remain here. While our border and immigration agencies have since become better equipped, more progress must be made. Our immigration courts are still badly understaffed and inundated with tens of thousands of open cases. Congress can help by heeding the President’s request for 55 new immigration judge teams to install across the country. While ensuring an efficient and effective border security and immigration system is important, Congress must also not lose sight of the root causes compelling people to flee Central America in the first place. The governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador must take the lead on this – and they are. These three countries have already joined together in an unprecedented regional effort called the Alliance for Prosperity to improve the lives of their citizens. They can do it, we can help. I hope the appropriators will approve the President’s budget request for a significant new investment in Central America to support security and prosperity. But above all, our nation needs comprehensive and thoughtful 21st immigration policy – a policy that is fair, that will significantly reduce the nation’s budget deficit, that will strengthen the economic recovery now underway, and that will fix our broken and outdated immigration system.”