The Conversation

Belief in 'Permisos' Driving Childhood Immigration Surge

An intelligence assessment published last week found that a misunderstanding about U.S. immigration policy is a major driver of the current surge of child immigrants from Central America.

The report, published July 7th by the El Paso Intelligence Center, was uncovered yesterday by Fox News. It states, "Of the 230 migrants interviewed, 219 cited the primary reason for migrating to the United States was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos to UAC (unaccompanied children) and adult females OTMs (other than Mexicans) traveling with minors."

Rep. Diaz-Balart recently visited Central America and Tuesday he gave reporters his impression of the significance of various factors causing children to flee to American. "The violence isn't new. The situation in those countries is not new," he said. Diaz-Balart added, "These cartels have seen a weakness in the system. They've seen statements coming from the administration that they have used in order to just frankly increase the number of people coming over."

The Obama administration sent V.P. Biden to Guatemala last month to meet with Central American leaders and discuss the border crisis. Biden discussed a media campaign intended to clear up misconceptions about U.S. law. During a speech he connected these misconceptions directly to DACA, the deferred action scheme announced by President Obama in 2012, saying "These minors that have recently come are not eligible -- they are not eligible to what’s referred to as deferred action.  A deferred action process.  Not if they arrived in the past seven years."

While Biden's statement is accurate, it's also true that children who arrive in the U.S. from Central America are not being deported in significant numbers. In fact, the number of minors deported had dropped every year since 2008 even as the number apprehended at the border has surged. In FY 2013 the total number of minors apprehended was 38,833 while the number deported was just 1,669 according to data gathered by the LA Times. So while the coyotes may not have an accurate handle on U.S. policy, they do recognize that most children who make it to the U.S. are not being sent home.


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