The flow of families and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) illegally crossing the border into Texas appears to be increasing again.
The story became prominent in national news in June when Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby published leaked photos of children, mostly from Central America, who were being held in very crowded conditions in U.S. Border Patrol processing centers. Now, according to the Tucson Sentinel, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley is reporting a surge in the number of families and UACs coming through a temporary shelter they operate in the area. The organization has announced plans to begin searching for a facility to use as a permanent shelter after Christmas.
Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director for Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told the Sentinel that although the media spotlight from this summer had turned away, they were once again seeing a surge of immigrants, and the numbers had “increased a lot this past month, almost to 100 every day.” Pimentel oversees the volunteer efforts at their shelter and said that the surge of immigrants “doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon,” but “we’re here and we’re prepared to receive them.”
The Border Patrol’s records show that, comparing Fiscal Year 2014 to date (October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014) to the same period in Fiscal Year 2013, there was a 77 percent increase in the number of UACs apprehended in the entire Southwest Border area, with nearly 50,000 being apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone, the highest number of apprehensions and a 132 percent increase from the previous year. The number of family units apprehended in the Southwest Border areas increased by 361 percent in Fiscal Year 2014, with both the Rio Grande Valley Sector and the Del Rio Sector seeing increases of over 500 percent. Over 52,000 family units were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector during Fiscal Year 2014.
The numbers of arrivals have been so overwhelming that the Border Patrol lacks adequate facilities to properly house everyone. As Breitbart Texas reported, tens of thousands of UACs have been released to friends and family members across the U.S., and the Border Patrol also relies on shelters run by groups like the Catholic Charities. The immigrants are released to their relatives or to the church shelters with an order to appear before an immigration judge at a later date.
Critics of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies have said that his administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws created a “magnet” enticing families to attempt to cross the border and parents to send their children on the dangerous journey alone. Obama’s announcement last month that he would be using executive orders to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants already in this country was viewed as encouraging even more to attempt to illegally cross our border. Texas is leading a coalition of about two dozen states suing the federal government in an attempt to block Obama’s execution actions, as Breitbart Texas reported.
The Border Patrol’s statistics show that the Obama administration’s critics may be correct about U.S. immigration policy creating a magnet for illegal immigrants, at least in terms of Central America. From Fiscal Year 2009 through Fiscal Year 2014 through September 30, the number of UACs arriving from Mexico has been fairly constant, just under about 15,000 per year. However, the number of UACs apprehended from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras was only about 1,000 from each of those countries per year from Fiscal Year 2009 to 2011, jumped to an average of just over 3,000 in Fiscal Year 2012, about 7,000 in Fiscal Year 2013, and about 17,000 in Fiscal Year 2014 to date.
This surge of immigrants has come at a high cost for both the Texas state government and local governments in the Rio Grande Valley. The Sentinel reported that local governments including the cities of McAllen and Weslaco, and Hidalgo and Willacy counties, had spent about $560,000 to support and shelter these immigrants through mid-October, and had sought reimbursement from the state and federal government, so far unsuccessfully.
The State of Texas has spent over $800 million on enhanced border security operations since 2007, as Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst mentioned in a press conference in November where he announced that he, Governor Rick Perry, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus had written a letter to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) supporting the allocation of $86 million to fund continued border security operations through the beginning months of the next legislative session. Perry, Dewhurst, and Straus’ proposal included phasing out the Texas National Guard troops and replacing them with additional Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers. The LBB approved this proposal in an unanimous vote.
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