Children entering US illegally up in August —White House
WASHINGTON - About double the number of Central American children entered the United States illegally in August compared to a year ago, surprising the Obama administration which had been touting a downward trend over the past year.
Overall, for the first 11 months of the fiscal year that began in October, the arrivals of children traveling without adults to the southwest border from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala dropped 46 percent from the year-ago period.
But the number rose to more than 4,000 in August from about 2,200 12 months earlier and 3,700 in July 2015, government figures show.
"We have seen over the last year a precipitous decline in the number of unaccompanied children attempting to enter this country without proper documentation and we have seen just in the last month, in the month of August, a surprising uptick," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
"They are an aberration from the trend we've seen long-term," although the numbers were still far below last year's peak, he said.
The August jump was worrying to immigration specialists who noted that hot summer weather typically led to fewer children aged 17 and younger risking the dangerous journey from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras over rough terrain to the southwestern US border.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement it was increasing bed capacity for undocumented immigrants.
From Oct. 1, 2014 to Aug. 31, 2015, 35,494 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border, down from 66,115 for the same period the previous year.
Another 34,565 children traveling with at least one adult have also been apprehended, down from 66,144 over the same period.
Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, said in a telephone interview that the large number of children trying to enter the United States in August was largely spurred by the persistence of drug-related and other violence in Central America and smugglers possibly finding new ways to get children to the US border.
A wave of child immigrants alarmed US officials last spring. By June, President Barack Obama was noting a humanitarian crisis unfolding at the southwestern border with Mexico.
In response, he announced steps to discourage youth from leaving their homes and Mexico stepped up its border security. —Reuters