Obama Administration Placed 106,000 UAMs with Illegal Alien Relatives, Many Disappeared into the Interior #WakeUpAmerica #BuildTheWall #Trump

By: Shari Rendall

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that the Obama administration placed 106,802 unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) from Central America with illegal alien sponsors between Fiscal Years 2014 and 2016. (See CIS, Immigration Impunity Report, February 2017) During this same time period, the Border Patrol apprehended a total of 126,985 UAMs, meaning that 80 percent were delivered by the federal government to live with illegal alien relatives until their immigration court hearings. (Id.) Unsurprisingly, approximately 13,000 UAMs failed to appear at their hearings, representing 36 percent of the cases completed, and only 25 percent of UAMs qualified for permission to stay in the United States. (Id.) Importantly, a significant number of UAMs do not have their court date until years from now so the numbers who fail to appear is expected to increase.

The surge of UAMs and family units was fueled by the Obama administration’s lax enforcement policies and a loophole they created in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, allowing Central American UAMs to remain in the U.S. instead of being promptly returned to their home countries. Specifically, the Obama administration treated all Central American UAMs apprehended at the border as “trafficking victims” even when it was obvious they were smuggled to the border or willingly made the journey themselves. In doing so, the Obama administration released these Central American UAMs into the country with relatives and gave them  a “notice to appear” that set immigration court dates in the future. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 1, 2015) However, the illegal aliens referred to them as “permisos,” or free passes, because they give permission to stay in the country while they await their appearance in already backlogged immigration courts. (Id.) This policy emboldened tens of thousands of Central American illegal aliens to surge across the southern border and the failure to send them home promptly encouraged others to come here unlawfully. (See Immigration Impunity Report, Feb. 2017) The National Border Patrol Council estimates that 80-90 percent of UAMs fail to show up for their hearing. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 16, 2016)

The extra layers of process imposed by the TVPRA have resulted in the federal government losing track of the whereabouts of many UAMs. Once these UAMs from Central America are apprehended at the border, they are screened, processed, and detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (See FAIR UAM Fact Sheet) Within 72 hours, they must be turned over to Health and Human Services (HHS) and placed into a temporary immigration shelter. From there, HHS attempts to place the UAM with an adult sponsor —to care for them temporarily, pending the resolution of their case in immigration court. Once they are transferred to the care of a sponsor, HHS cedes all power and responsibility over the UAM. (Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Staff Report, Jan. 28, 2016) The sponsors are not adequately monitored to ensure they comply with the provisions of the children’s placement. (CIS Report, Feb. 2017) After 30 days, HHS simply makes a follow-up call to check on the child’s well-being and safety. (Id.) In the first quarter of 2016, only 56 percent of children and 88 percent of sponsors even participated in the follow-up call. (Id.) HHS does not hold non-compliant sponsors accountable for immigration violations. (Id.)

In an effort to deter Central American UAMs and their family units, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently announced that the Trump administration is considering separating children from adults when they are trying to enter the country illegally at the southern border. (CNN, Mar. 7, 2017) This proposal would allow the adults could be kept in detention while the minors could be moved elsewhere under protected status discouraging UAMs and family units from making the journey. (Id.) Currently, when adults enter the country accompanied by children, they are generally released into the U.S. and able to stay in the country, pending disposition of their cases.



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