OVER the course of this year, as many as 90,000 minors fleeing crime- and poverty-ridden Central American countries could be given haven in the United States. Few will ever return to their homeland, prompting U.S. Rep. Tom Cole to say this week: “We need to have some frank policy discussions.”
Indeed we do. Central to those talks — shouts? — will be President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order that some Republicans contend is the reason for the surge of children and teens, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The order allowed deferred deportation of those who had entered the United States illegally as children.
Although the deferred action was for minors who had arrived in this country by 2007, the rapid increase in youngsters flowing across the Southern border began after Obama’s policy change. In 2012, the number of children received into a program run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services increased over the prior several years’ average. Then came a major jump in 2013, to nearly 25,000. The total this year is expected to exceed 66,000 and could approach 90,000.
On Fox News this week, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said these young illegal immigrants don’t try to evade law enforcement. Instead, they surrender to U.S. border agents because smugglers have told them “they won’t deport you under Obama’s policy.”
HHS provides the young immigrants health care, socialization, vocational training and access to legal advice, among other services. Cole says U.S. policy regarding these minors is to find them a sponsor, such as a family member or friend, so they can remain in the country.
Several hundred will soon arrive at Fort Sill. Eventually, as many as 1,200 could be housed there, something that’s drawn criticism from Gov. Mary Fallin, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and other Oklahoma Republicans.