In a scathing report in The Washington Post, reporters David Nakamura, Jerry Markon and Manuel Roig-Franzia detail how the current border crisis involving a surge of children from Mexico and Central America was predicted by several human rights organizations and that the Obama administration failed to act, thus creating not only the increase in children illegally crossing the border, but also the desperate conditions the children have had to endure.
In 2013, the University of Texas at El Paso issued a 41-page report that “raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse.” The Post article goes on to say,
The researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years as a surge of Central American minors has crossed into south Texas illegally. More than 57,000 have entered the United States this year, swamping federal resources and catching the government unprepared.
The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis.
Further, there were reports to the White House as far back as 2012 that significant changes were taking place, both in terms of illegal immigration and changes in political situations in countries south of the U.S. border.
There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said one former senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about internal operations.
In November of 2013, a group representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) traveled to Mexico and Central American in order to investigate the situations in those countries and to try to determine the cause for the influx of young illegal immigrants. Their report was sent to State Department officials, as well as Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s domestic policy adviser. The USCCB found that many children were fleeing gang violence and severe poverty. The USCCB recommended that the U.S. work with Mexico and Central American countries to strengthen rule of law, diminish gang activity and establish economic opportunities so that young people could safely remain in their own countries. Prevention services, specific to each country’s challenges, would curb the need for desperate journeys to the U.S. The report concludes:
The situation of child migration from Central America is a complex one, with no easy answers. It is a result of social and economic insecurity, lack of protection, violence and coercion, and the desire to be with family. It is clear, however, that more must be done to address the root causes of this flight and to protect children and youth in the process. This includes working together to address economic reasons behind family separation, the barriers to family reunification in immigration laws and policies, violence, and other root causes of migration.
The Washington Post article also reports that, in 2012, a meeting of the First Ladies of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala resulted in these women stating that the situation regarding minors fleeing to the U.S. was “worrisome.”
Mexico’s first lady, Margarita Zavala, and Honduran counterpart Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo noted that tougher U.S. border security made it more difficult for parents working in the U.S. to return for their children, a suggestion as to why parents increasingly would put their children in a smuggler’s care.
“The statistics are worrisome,” said Rosa Maria Leal de Perez, Guatemala’s first lady. “We’ve had 6,000 unaccompanied children repatriated in the last year.”
The report from the University of Texas at El Paso further discovered that the number of children caught by the U.S. Border Patrol increased from 3,933 in 2011 to 20,805 in 2013, a number that caught the Border Control and Health and Human Services completely off-guard in terms of providing housing and care for the children. Political wrangling over border control issues is said to play a large part in the border crisis, according to the Post reporters. While President Obama did call for more funding for border issues in his 2013 State of the Union address, the Post article decries Obama’s lack of action as “weak,” and plainly shows that the Obama administration had ample time to address the issue prior to it becoming the massive crisis we see today.