National News

Official: Fewer kids detained recently at border

Posted July 17

Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks speaks to reporters at the new intake facility built to help alleviate overcrowding at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas on Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/The McAllen Monitor, Joel Martinez)

— The U.S. Border Patrol has detained fewer unaccompanied children entering South Texas illegally in the past 10 days, agency officials said Thursday.

In recent months, the Border Patrol's facilities in South Texas have been overwhelmed by a surge in the number of children entering the country without their parents. More than 57,000 children have been arrested since October, more than double the number compared to a year earlier.

The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector Chief Kevin Oaks made the comment about declining child arrests following a media tour of a new processing facility for them in McAllen. The 55,000-square-foot converted warehouse is scheduled to open Friday and temporarily house as many as 1,000 children until they can be turned over to the Health and Human Services Department and sent to shelters.

"We arrested 80 juveniles yesterday, so within the last 10 days we've seen a decrease in the number of juveniles arrested," Oaks said. Later, Roel Rodriguez, the agent who will head the new processing facility, said that daily arrest tally was down from 200 to 300 unaccompanied children at the surge's height.

Children arrested after entering the U.S. without their parents posed a challenge for the Border Patrol. Its stations are equipped only with simple holding cells and not intended for extended stays. When agents began arresting more children than could be quickly processed they backed up stations in the Rio Grande Valley, forcing the agency to bus and fly detainees to other parts of Texas and out of state.

Oaks' comments jibe with a general drop in total immigrant arrests in South Texas in the final week of June. The Border Patrol has not released such data for July, but weekly arrest totals included in law enforcement intelligence reports obtained by The Associated Press in May and June show that arrests dropped in the final week of June to a level not seen since mid-May. Weekly arrest totals in the Rio Grande Valley during those months peaked in mid-June at more than 9,000. The factors contributing to the drop are unclear and it is unknown if it will continue.

Oaks said that with the opening of the McAllen facility, the Border Patrol was winding down a similar processing center in Nogales, Arizona, and he expected it to close within a week. The vast majority of the children enter the U.S. in South Texas and the new processing facility is just around the corner from the region's busiest Border Patrol station. Law requires the Border Patrol to turn the children over to HHS within 72 hours of their arrest.

He said his sector now had fewer than 200 unaccompanied children in custody, compared to as many as 1,200 on any given day during the peak.

The children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, are fleeing widespread gang violence and poverty in their home countries. Some come to reunite with parents already in the U.S., while others flee for their lives. Some parents have said they've heard rumors that the children will be allowed to remain in the U.S. and the government tries to reunite children with relatives in the U.S. while they wait for their cases to be heard.

Generally, the children have been turning themselves in to the first official in a uniform they see after crossing the Rio Grande.

President Barack Obama has requested $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with what he termed "an urgent humanitarian situation." That request increasingly appears in jeopardy as Democrats and Republicans clash over how to remedy the situation.

The new McAllen facility was set up inside a leased warehouse. Tall chain-link fences divide it into four "pods," each capable of holding up to 250 children. Children will sleep on small green mattresses, receive medical screenings and have common areas to watch television.

"The issue is very complex. We're not talking about criminals or anything," Oaks said. "These are innocent children fleeing desperate times whether it's poverty, whether it's violence, whether it's the draw of a better life the United States, whether it's family reunification."

13 Comments

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  • cringercat1862 Jul 18, 1:12 p.m.

    who believes anything bureaucrats in this government says? you have lost all credibility.
    illegal aliens depress wages for all americans, and take already stretched government resources.

  • sunshine1040 Jul 18, 11:43 a.m.

    Sorry folks stop them at our borders and let Mexico handle the problem They could stop them at their southern border. And with all the money fols from the US are sending to Mexico to their families back home Mexico could use some of that to pay for the transportation to send them on back to their home

  • ohbumr Jul 18, 10:55 a.m.

    This was all set up by the Obama Administration. If the Children's Parents were already here,... View More

    — Posted by bmac813

    So you believe that Obama personally rounded up these kids, brought them to the border, and... View More

    — Posted by BurtReynoldsBigHat

    google the cloward-piven strategy and then sit down and think about it. what has barry been calling for? raised minimum wage and/or a guaranteed income. barry wants to turn the US into a socialist state. the libs want us out of the middle east, but we need to go into mexico to help the kids. it's all about their agenda.

  • European American Jul 18, 10:53 a.m.

    It is a crying shame that our "president" cares more about children from Mexico more than... View More

    — Posted by counterculture

    It's a crying shame that you actually believe that.

  • scubagirl2 Jul 18, 10:21 a.m.

    sorry YOU were, not your were

  • scubagirl2 Jul 18, 10:04 a.m.

    not taking a stance either way, but these kids are mostly NOT from Mexico if your were to actually READ the story. Knowing how things are in some central american countries (and yes Mexico) I almost can't blame them for trying. The kids and their parents are not to blame but our government even BEFORE Obama started this.

  • JAFOinWF Jul 18, 9:52 a.m.

    I believe that Obama is yet another prez who has facilitated the invasion of our country. Reagan gave amnesty and big govt promised us that was the end of it and we would have border security. Obama gave deferred action to the DREAMers which has brought on this latest rush. It is terrible that the American taxpayer has to pay for all of this mess. The reason to have a govt is to defend our borders.

  • counterculture Jul 18, 9:39 a.m.

    It is a crying shame that our "president" cares more about children from Mexico more than children in the United States.

  • bill0 Jul 18, 9:33 a.m.

    So we are supposed to pay to care for all these kids? Bigger fence.

    — Posted by berniwheeler

    My taxes pay for you and your kids if you have any so why should I pay for kids I don't have?

    — Posted by Gidder Dun

    Because those are the people who are going to be paying for and taking care of you when you get old?

    As for a "Bigger Fence", that shows a complete misunderstanding of the problem. These kids aren't sneaking across. They are walking right up to the border guards.

    By law, any kids found trying to cross the border without parents are assumed to be smuggling victims. Bush helped push this into law - a well intentioned but flawed plan. This problem has been steadily growing since 2008 and really picked up this last year. They aren't actually covered by any law or policy that Obama has instituted, but all the rhetoric from the critics about how he was "offering amnesty to everyone and throwing open the borders" almost certainly confused some of the people trying to enter this way.

  • aspenstreet1717 Jul 18, 9:33 a.m.

    Make Mexico pay. Make Mexico provide buses to take all illegals South of the border. Make being in the US illegally a FELONY.

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