NC sheriff: 'What happens at the border doesn't stay there'
Posted August 4, 2014
Updated August 5, 2014
Charlotte, N.C. — What happens at the border of Mexico and Texas is only part of the story of illegal immigration. The journey continues in court rooms across America.
Government officials estimate nearly 2,000 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors in North Carolina from January to July of this year. Usually, the sponsors are family members already in the U.S. who take care of the children until an immigration judge decides their fate.
WRAL News was there when Mayckol Murillo, 17, went before a judge in Charlotte recently. He crossed the border into the U.S. alone and illegally and says he left Honduras to escape gang violence. He wants to be granted political asylum.
Since being in the U.S., Murillo says he has mostly been studying and learning English because he believes that will open doors for him and ensure his future success. He lives in the Triangle and attends a local high school.
Murillo will have to continue traveling to Charlotte over the next few months for immigration court, and he says he hopes the judge will say: “You can stay here. Don’t worry. You are now documented. Just keep studying.”
Two children from El Salvador, who asked that their names not be used, also live in the Triangle. They say they are afraid of the gang violence they escaped from in their home country. These days, however, it is the fear of deportation that overwhelms them.
“I don't know what's going to happen,” one of the children said.
The 14-year-old girl says she said no to gang members who were trying to recruit her. If she goes back, “they’ll kill me,” she said.
At school, when one of her friends refused to join the gang, “they took her out of school and then decapitated her,” the girl said.
Her father in North Carolina paid to have her smuggled into the U.S. When gang members found out she escaped, she says, they killed her uncle in El Salvador.
The 12-year-old boy by her side was told he had two options in El Salvador – “join them, sell drugs and kill or be killed,” he said.
He chose another option – to flee.
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page made the trip to the border to see what was happening for himself.
“We are having issues with criminal activity and dealing with the Mexican drug cartels in my community in North Carolina,” Page said. “I know where they come through … (They) end up in North Carolina. We are two days driving time from the border. So, a lot of times, what happens at the border doesn't stay there.”
The White House is asking for $3.7 billion to provide better care, more law enforcement and more immigration judges. Republicans say it can be done for less.
As for North Carolina's senators, Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan says she wants more funding for the military's U.S. Southern Command to crack down on smugglers:
"We are a nation of laws, and those laws must be respected and followed. We cannot simply open up our borders, and these children will ultimately have to be sent back to their home countries. I believe Congress should take action to address the humanitarian crisis on the border, but that response must address the root causes of this migration by cracking down on the criminal trafficking operations that are transporting these children. That's why I have advocated for funding for the military's U.S. Southern Command to combat these traffickers along the routes they're using to bring kids to the U.S."
A spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Richard Burr says he supports changes in existing law that would expedite the deportation of unaccompanied minors:
"Senator Burr believes the current situation at the border underscores what he has said all along: the border is not secure, and it is imperative that we address what border security should look like today, tomorrow, and down the road. With regards to the immediate crisis, the Obama Administration must make it clear to individuals and governments in Central and South American countries that the United States is not relaxing immigration standards for those who illegally cross, including children, and that most of these individuals are required under law to be deported. We are the most compassionate nation in the world but moving these minors from detention center to detention center is inhumane. Senator Burr supports common-sense changes in existing law that would expedite the removal of unaccompanied minors to their homes and to keep them from spending weeks or months in federal custody."
Agreement on a solution may be just as difficult to find on the border as it is in the nation's capital.
The influx of unaccompanied children has been called a humanitarian crisis, but there may be no quick and easy way to solve the issue. While there's agreement that something needs to be done about the border crisis, there's little agreement on potential solutions.
State-by-state placement of unaccompanied children
Jan. 1, 2014 - July 7, 2014
Source: Office of Refugee Resettlement