Flood of Immigrant Children at U.S. Border Demands Action to Reform Failed Immigration Policies

Posted July 9, 2014

MP3 Interview with Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, conducted by Scott Harris


In recent weeks, the large number of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexican border has captured headlines and prompted a renewed national debate on immigration reform. The surge also set off an ugly anti-immigration protest on July 1 that blocked three government buses transporting 140 immigrant children and their mothers to a border patrol station in Murietta, California.

A combination of extreme poverty, violence and misinformation about U.S. immigration policy has encouraged an estimated 50,000 child immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to make the dangerous journey to America’s border over the past nine months. To respond to the influx, the Obama administration has requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to pay for an increase in the number of immigration judges, border patrol agents, aerial surveillance and new detention facilities.

While many conservative legislators are calling for the immediate deportation of these children, The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, passed with bipartisan support in Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, requires that children entering the U.S. from nations other than Canada and Mexico without a guardian, must appear before an immigration judge. The law also recommends that minor immigrants should have access to an attorney and an advocate, placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child – and be reunited with family members when possible. In recent days, White House officials have suggested that they may seek flexibility in enforcing the law’s requirements. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC. Here, she examines the conditions in Central America that led to the arrival of large numbers of immigrant children and the options open to President Obama to use his executive power to address the current crisis and advance a more just immigration policy.

Find more about the Catholic Legal Immigration Network or CLINIC, by visiting cliniclegal.org.

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