Border patrol reported a huge surge of children and families with children crossing the southwest border illegally this last year. 4,476 children were found traveling without parents, and 5,273 parents and children were found traveling together. Both numbers are nearly double what they were last September, with border patrol officials believing the surge is due to a plague of unrest in South American countries.
The official policy for Central and South American families and children caught at the border is to give them court dates and then release them into the United States with their court papers, referred to as “permisos.” This is meant to allow immigrants who believe that they are not safe in their country of origin an opportunity to plead their status as a refugee from their home.
However, many border patrol officials have begun referring to permisos as a “notice to disappear.” Chris Cabrera, an official with the National Border Patrol Council testified to the Senate Homeland Security Committee last Wednesday that 80 to 90 percent of immigrants who receive court papers never show up for their hearing.
Border Patrol also reported that they are aware of smugglers who use the promise of permisos to entice people into immigrating to the U.S., charging them exorbitant smuggling fees and dumping them at the border. Review of this policy may be necessary to ensure that immigrants are still able to find shelter in the U.S. but without abusing the court date based system.
What is most interesting is that, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigration numbers overall are actually down. Since October of 2014, 331,000 immigrants were caught at the border, more than 140,000 fewer than the previous year. With immigration numbers down, developing new methods of processing immigrants is more viable and could have an impact on illegal immigration in the years to come.