More than 33,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally entering the United States have been released to – often other illegal immigrant – family members and sponsors throughout the country so far this fiscal year, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
So far this fiscal year (which started on October 1, 2015) through April, 33,347 unaccompanied minors have been released into communities across U.S. – more than the total 27,840 unaccompanied minors released all of last fiscal year.
The high placement this year is roughly on pace to reach the striking levels reached during the border crisis of FY 2014, when 53,515 unaccompanied minors were released across the U.S.
Unlike other illegal immigrants detained at the border, unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries are granted special protections in the U.S. including placement with family members and access to U.S. services, such as taxpayer-funded public schooling, while they await their immigration hearings.
“When a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” ORR explains. “Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings. These sponsors live in many states.”
Like previous years, the states receiving the most unaccompanied minors this fiscal year are also the ones with relatively large illegal populations. Federal officials have so far placed 4,769 unaccompanied minors with family members in California, 3,404 in Florida, 1,163 in Georgia, 2,378 in Maryland, 1,640 in New Jersey, 3,022 in New York, 4,148 in Texas, and 2,416 in Virginia. Unaccompanied minors have been placed in every state in the U.S. this fiscal year to-date, except Montana. Federal officials have even dispatched three unaccompanied minors to Hawaii and one to Alaska.
According to recent Border Patrol data, the level of illegal immigration from Central America has exceeded last year’s pace and is now rivaling the unprecedented surge of FY 2014’s humanitarian crisis, when 68,541 unaccompanied minors were detained illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. This fiscal year through May, Border Patrol has apprehended 38,566 unaccompanied minors at the border, nearly as high as all of FY 2015’s 39,970 apprehensions.
While the government is resettling tens of thousands of illegal immigrant minors throughout the country — ostensibly to await immigration hearings — just 3.6 percent of the unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally entering the U.S. in the past two-and-half years have been deported, according to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest.