Federal officials will open three shelters in response to a resurgent flow of unaccompanied children through the southern U.S. border. Senior Obama administration officials said on Monday that the shelters, set to open in Texas and California, will add at least 1,400 more beds, according to the New York Times.
In recent years, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have fled violence in poverty in the Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and entered the United States through the southern border. Federal immigration officials along the southwest border, particularly along the Rio Grande Sector in Texas, apprehended 68,541 unaccompanied children in the 2014 fiscal year and 39,970 in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency.
The number of children showing up at the border dropped earlier this year, but it started to pick up again in July. Last month, about 5,622 children were caught at the border, “more than double the number stopped in November 2014,” the New York Times reported.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has asked the Pentagon to plan for 5,000 more beds, though they’re not needed in the meantime. The beds would help to stem some of the controversy over the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions seen at holding centers last year when there was an unprecedented influx of children and families.
The resurgence of unaccompanied children comes at a time when the Obama administration is tackling another immigration matter in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in California perpetrated by a woman who came into the country on a K-1 fiance visa. The shooting has led to calls to tighten that visa application process.
Last year, many Republican lawmakers urged state leaders to prevent unaccompanied children from settling in their states, claiming that they could bring disease or terrorism. In fact, most of the unaccompanied children have been vaccinated in their home countries and are under the age of 12.
It’s likely that more children are leaving their country because crime has gone up. About two-thirds of homicides in El Salvador, fast edging out Honduras as the murder capital of the world, are committed by gangs. And the country’s Attorney General’s office stated that the country experienced a 74 percent rise in homicides from the previous year, with an increase in multiple homicides in which there are two or more victims.