Eighty percent of the unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally entering the U.S. in recent months have been placed in the care of other illegal immigrants, according to data obtained by the Associated Press.
The AP reports that of the 71,000 unaccompanied minors — largely from Central America— placed with sponsors in the U.S. from February 2014 to September 2015, ostensibly to await immigration hearings, 80 percent were placed with other illegal immigrants living in the U.S. Six percent were placed with sponsors living in the U.S. on Temporary Protected Status, and four percent were sponsored by American citizens.
Another one percent were placed with illegal immigrants already facing deportation proceedings.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the placement of unaccompanied minors, provided the data to the AP pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request.
While Republican lawmakers have expressed incredulous frustration in the past at the administration’s policy of not taking the immigration status of sponsors into account when placing unaccompanied minors in the interior of the U.S., the AP’s report is the first time the government has quantified the percentage of illegal immigrants in its pool of sponsors.
In recent years the southern border has experienced a surge in unaccompanied minors — largely from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries receive special treatment in the U.S. Once apprehended by Border Patrol, they are placed in the care of HHS, which then places the minors with family members and sponsors in the U.S. to await immigration hearings.
According to the data provided to the AP, HHS releases about half of the unaccompanied minors with parents in the U.S. and place others with close relatives.
While immigration activists and Democrats say the influx of unaccompanied minors is due to “push” factors like violence and poverty in their home countries, Republican lawmakers have argued the Obama administration’s lax immigration enforcement policies and executive amnesty programs serve as enticements for illegal immigration.
Regardless of where the blame lies, to date the Obama administration has returned few of the unaccompanied minors back to their home countries.
According to the Senate’s Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, just 3.6 percent of the 127,193 unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally entering the U.S. in the last two-and-half years have been deported.