Babysitting On The Border

On Friday, Speaker Boehner called on the president to send the National Guard to the Mexican border. Allahpundit responds:

[Boehner] wants the National Guard there not to intercept illegals coming across but to essentially babysit the younger ones who’ve already made it so that the Border Patrol can go back to intercepting people. Still, though: Sending the Guard to the border is something you’d expect to hear from Steve King circa 2007, not John Boehner circa 2014.

On the same day Boehner released his letter, the White House took action:

Obama administration officials said the government is planning to open new facilities to detain and house the influx of migrants and ease the burden on detention centers in the Rio Grande Valley where horrifying conditions have been reported. Administration officials also said the government would send more immigration judges and lawyers to the region to bolster enforcement and removal proceedings.  “We are surging our resources to increase our capacity to detain,” Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on a conference call, emphasizing the administration’s aim was to make conditions more “humane.”

But can we please retire “surge” once and for all, especially when it comes to immigrant kids? Esther Yu-Hsi Lee downplays Obama’s role in the humanitarian crisis:

In fact, the current process of dealing with unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico was set by the Bush administration, according to Dara Lind at Vox. Under the law, the Border Patrol agency is required to take in these children, screen and vaccinate them, then turn them over to the Department of Health of Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ORR assigns children to shelters until the agency can identify sponsors and once children are placed with sponsors, their cases work their way through the immigration court.

Dara Lind, who’s been all over the story, notes that “the current system was built for 8,000 kids – not 50,000.” She later details the dearth of detention facilities for families crossing the border:

There’s currently only one immigration detention facility that’s suitable for families: a former nursing home in Burks County, Pennsylvania. DHS announced today that it is “actively working to secure additional space to detain adults with children apprehended crossing the border,” in the words of Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Families who aren’t being physically put in detention are going to be “monitored” using “alternatives to detention,” like ankle bracelets, to make sure that they’re showing up for their court dates.

Lind also describes the alternatives to detaining families:

[Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission] says that these alternatives are more humane than detention. They’re also cheaper:

a report from advocacy group Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services found that the government spent $166 per inmate per day on immigration detention, but only $22 per person per day on alternative programs. (And unlike private probation companies, alternatives to detention don’t make up the profit by charging migrants themselves.) But perhaps most importantly for Central American migrant families, alternatives to detention can be successful in getting immigrants to show up to court. ISAP reports that 96 percent of the immigrants it monitors make their court dates.

Why isn’t the government using alternatives to detention? One reason is because the optics of detention are much better for “sending a message” than ankle bracelets or phone calls are. Another is simply that the Department of Homeland still sees alternatives to detention as an experimental program. It hasn’t really implemented any on a broad scale yet. Detention is still the default. But most importantly, it’s easier to process families quickly when they’re held in detention.

Meanwhile, a new NIMBY movement has begun:

The Washington Times is now reporting that, in a blow to the administration, the residents of Lawrenceville, Virginia have successfully rebuffed attempts by HHS to convince the town to house 500 older youths at a recently closed college in their town. Over 1,000 residents voiced their opposition at a town hall meeting. (This comes on the heels of Baltimore’s Democratic mayor and two Democratic senators objecting to plans to house some of the new arrivals of children at an empty office complex in Baltimore.)

Julie Terkewitz provides background on the young people pouring over the US border:

Most of the young migrants in government custody come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Seventy percent are between the ages of 15 and 17. And three-quarters of them are male.

Over the past decade, massive efforts to root out the drug trade in Colombia and Mexico have transformed Central American countries into critical and hotly contested slices of territory for cartels funneling narcotics into the United States. The wave of child and teen émigrés, experts say, is related to the ascension of these gangs, who feed on the money and manpower that youths provide, and pursue them with an almost-religious persistence.

In 2012, the Women’s Refugee Commission, a research and advocacy group, conducted field studies to examine the causes of this unprecedented influx. Of the 151 young immigrants interviewed, nearly 80 percent said that violence was the main reason young people were fleeing their countries. “It’s push factors, not pull factors,” said Jennifer Podkul, a senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission.