In the last two years, a huge surge of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children (UAC or unaccompanied children – mainly teenagers) into the United States has occurred. In most years, about 6,000-8,000 such minors are apprehended trying to cross our southern border. Some come to reunite with a parent who’s already here, others are sent by desperate parents trying to get their kids away from poverty and/or violence, and still others are victims of human trafficking. But, starting in 2012, something changed (opinions vary on what -see links) and the number of UACs began to soar. A lot. In the eight months prior to July 2014, over 57,000 UACs and undocumented children with a parent turned themselves in to immigration authorities at the border.
This surge had two big effects. First, it overwhelmed the government’s system for dealing with UACs. As I’ll explain, the situation was exacerbated by a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that gave all such children a right to make an asylum claim before a judge before being deported. Second, conservatives reacted with fury to the sudden influx and to the government’s ham-handed efforts to find room to house the kids by moving them to locations around the country. Protestors blocked buses carrying the children (in Murrieta, for example), and conservative media went ballistic. They blamed President Obama’s executive orders and “pro-amnesty” rhetoric for luring the kids here. All this likely put the final nail in the coffin of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress; no major GOP candidate is running for election or reelection in 2014 on an immigration reform platform – except on a deport-them-all platform. The UAC issue also has been used to pressure Obama not to issue any sweeping new executive order on immigration. The wave of unaccompanied minors crested in July and has fallen back to normal levels in recent months, but the sour taste among conservatives – and liberals – remains.
I thought we could discuss some of these issues have raised.. There’s a lot to talk about, from asylum laws to border enforcement. On Monday, I’ll open us up by explaining the recent border crisis and trying to summarize U.S. refugee and asylum law. Then, we’ll see where it goes.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What caused the recent surge in unaccompanied undocumented minors? Why was the government caught flat-footed? How does a 2008 anti-human trafficking law affect the situation?
- What is political asylum and a political refugee? What are U.S. obligations under international law regarding them? How many do we let in, what is the process for doing so, and what burden of proof of persecution must asylum seekers meet?
- Should we change our laws to admit more – or fewer – refugees?
- Has the UAC crisis revealed problems in U.S. immigration law and/or policies?
- Could anything revive the prospects for immigration reform?
- ABC’s of the surge from Central America. (Vox)
- Why did it happen and why has it slowed back to normal levels? Latest. Recommended.
- Conservatives say it’s all Obama’s fault (this shows the conservative anger, too, including over the “diseases” the kids carry – I kid you not).
- Or is it mainly Congress’s fault?
- How our asylum laws work and apply to this situation. Recommended
- Regardless, it makes immigration reform dead, dead, dead. (Politico)
- Most U.S. asylum grantees come from China, and only a small % of applicants from Central America are approved.
- The requirements of international law (in great detail, FYI, from the IJRC)
- [Update: Wiki entry on U.S. asylum law is much shorter than op. cit.]
Next Week: Sex education – What works and what’s right?