Because very few of the illegal immigrant children who are apprehended are sent back immediately, more migrants from Central American countries are gambling that they will be allowed to remain in the United States permanently if they cross the border.
The Wall Street Journal found that “data from immigration courts, along with interviews with the children and their advocates, show that few minors are sent home and many are able to stay for years in the U.S., if not permanently.”
Doris Meissner, the director of the Immigration Policy Program at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute and a former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, told the Journal that this only lures more illegal immigrants to come to the United States.
“Until people’s experience changes, more are going to continue to come, because they’re achieving what they need: safety and reunification with their families,” she said. “They’re here, and they’re staying, and whatever else might happen to them is at least a year or more away.”
In fiscal year 2013, 47,397 illegal immigrant children were apprehended but but fewer than 4,500 were ordered deported, as “immigration judges ordered 3,525 migrant children to be deported” and “an additional 888 to voluntarily return home without a formal removal order.” To complicate matters, the Justice Department has said that nearly half of all juveniles do not show up to their hearings.
As the Journal notes, “because of court backlogs, most of the 2013 court and deportation data represent cases of children who arrived in earlier years,” and “simply reaching a decision in these cases can take years, and the backlog is growing worse.” Since October of last year, there have been at least 57,000 illegal immigrant children who have crossed the border and another 30,000 are expected in the next three months. Next year, at least another 150,000 more are expected to enter the United States.
To show how slow the system is, the Journal profiled the case of an illegal immigrant who came to the country seven months ago and whose “first court appearance is scheduled for August.” The Journal notes that “it could take another year or more for her case to be adjudicated.”
The illegal immigrant told the Journal that, “sometimes I feel like going back, but I’m in danger over there.”
In the meantime, she said that if she “can stay here, I will get a chance to get an education and be able to help the people I love back home.”
Illegal immigrant children from countries other than Mexico and Canada cannot be immediately deported under a 2008 federal law.