A Surge of Unaccompanied Minors Crossing the Border into the United States

Jun 3, 2014 |

On June 2, 2014, President Obama stated that the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the south Texas border has created a humanitarian crisis and ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a response involving several federal agencies as well as state and local governments.

Administration officials said 47,017 children traveling without parents had been caught crossing the southwest border since October 1 – a 92 percent increase over the same period in 2013. Most are coming from three Central American countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More than 33,000 minors were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Three years ago, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement(ORR) served approximately 6,500 unaccompanied minors, but the number has doubled each year since then. Projections are that at least 60,000 minors will be apprehended by Homeland Security and transferred to ORR care (federal custody) in 2014.The majority of these children and youth are 15– 17 years of age, although there has been an increase in the numbers of children under age 12 as well as pregnant and parenting teens and children with severe disabilities. By law, ORR’s responsibility is to provide shelter and care, while families in the United States are located and assessed to facilitate safe reunification. Pro bono attorneys help identify legal relief for eligible children; a very small percentage is repatriated. Most children are in ORR care between 30 and 45 days, some for a shorter time, some longer, depending on the circumstances.

The epidemic of violence, civil unrest and human trafficking, due to a proliferation of gangs and cartels that actively recruit children and youth under threats of harm combined with the lack of strong child protection systems and the countries’ inability to protect its citizens, are as devastating and destructive as any epidemic. In fact, what is happening in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries that lay only a few borders south of the United States, is a humanitarian crisis that threatens the lives and well-being of its children, youth and families everyday.

For more information on the situation, please see: