DHS Secretary Responds To Surge Of Unaccompanied Child Immigrants

By Al Macias
Published: Friday, June 13, 2014 - 9:37am
Updated: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 11:03am
Photo by Peter O'Dowd - KJZZ
Migrants in CBP custody await processing in Nogales.

More than 47,000 thousand undocumented child immigrants have been apprehended in Texas along the United States-Mexico border since October. Virtually all the children are from Central American countries. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson discussed the surge on Thursday.

"I've been in contact with the ambassadors of all four countries involved -- Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico -- to talk about our shared border security interests and faster repatriation," Johnson said.

About 1,000 of those minors are being temporarily housed at a facility in Nogales. Texas facilities were overwhelmed by the flood of immigrants, but Arizona officials have blasted federal authorities for transferring the children to Arizona.

Multiple federal agencies are responding to the surge. Customs and Border Protection is responsible for the children when they are taken into custody. They are then turned over to Health and Human Services. Mark Greenberg with HHS said the number of children had been increasing, but the latest surge has been dramatic.

"We used to receive referrals from CBP (of) about 7,000 to 8,000 each year. The number has steadily been climbing. In 2012, we served more than 13,000 children. In 2013, more than 24,000, and the projection for this year was 60,000 before the most recent increases," Greenberg said.

HHS is working with military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma to provide temporary housing for the thousands of children. Federal officials say they are working to reunite them with family in the U.S., but they still face deportation.