The number of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors the Obama administration is placing in communities across the U.S. is on pace to be twice as high as last year and rival the previously unprecedented levels reached in FY 2014.
The high placement numbers are a result of the ongoing surge of unaccompanied minors — largely from Central America — illegally entering the U.S. at the southwest border. The Obama administration, citing a 2008 anti-trafficking law, has been granting unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors from noncontiguous counties special protections, including reuniting them with relatives living in the U.S.
Once apprehended illegally crossing into the U.S., Border Patrol transfers these Central American unaccompanied minors to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR then places the minors in the care of a family member or sponsor in the U.S.
In the first six months of this fiscal year (October 2015 – March 2016), ORR placed 25,975 unaccompanied minors with sponsors in states across the country, according to data compiled by ORR.
The total is nearly as high as the number of unaccompanied minors ORR placed in the U.S. over all 12 months of FY 2015, or 27,520. During the record-setting year in FY 2014 ORR placed 53,515 unaccompanied children with sponsors across the U.S.
According a recent Associated Press investigation, the administration places the vast majority of these unaccompanied children with relatives who are often illegal immigrants themselves.
If the last six months of FY 2016 are similar to the first six months, ORR’s total unaccompanied minor placements could reach nearly 52,000.
So far, most of the unaccompanied minors this fiscal year have been placed in California (3,608), Texas (3,106), Florida (2,786), New York (2,306), Virginia (1,886), Maryland (1,849), and New Jersey (1,265).
The first six months of FY 2016 have already seen over 27,754 unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally crossing into the U.S. According to Border Patrol figures, the level to date is 78 percent higher than the 15,616 unaccompanied minors apprehended over the same timeframe in FY 2015 and about on par with the 28,579 apprehended in FY 2014.
According to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, just 3.6 percent of the unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors apprehended over the past two-and-a-half years have been returned to their countries of origin.