As the White House faces mounting pressure to rein in the overworked U.S. deportation system, new data show most children illegally entering the country manage to stay.
According to reports from immigration courts organized in The Wall Street Journal, of the nearly 50,000 children apprehended at the border in 2013, only 3,525 were ordered to be deported. At this rate, the Obama administration has estimated that as many as 90,000 unaccompanied minors could be apprehended this year, a figure that would drain funds from immigration agencies.
Though the majority of children end up staying with family members in the U.S., many have to be sheltered by the government as they wait for legal proceedings to continue.
And those legal proceedings can take years. Because of a 2008 federal law requiring all cases involving children traveling alone from countries other than Mexico and Canada to be heard in immigration court, the influx of children has led to backlogged cases, as judges often delay proceedings to give children time to find legal representation. Even so, few manage to do so – a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said only 15 percent of the 21,000 children sheltered by the HHS between August 2012 and July 2013 found attorneys.
In response, the administration has sent Congress a $3.8 billion plan that would modify the 2008 law, adding more detention facilities and immigration judges, as well as aid to Central American countries to return children to their respective countries, a move protested by immigrants rights activists.