By The Wall Street Journal
SAN ANTONIO – South Texas is seeing a rise in children from Central America who have slipped across the border unaccompanied into the US from Mexico after that country began deporting fewer kids who arrived without visas, some experts say.
The influx across the US border is causing a political outcry in the state, where the federal government has set up five temporary shelters to deal with the growing numbers of young immigrants.
From October to the end of April, the US government has detained more than 6,500 unaccompanied minors who had crossed the border, nearly double the number detained in the comparable period the previous year, according to US officials.
Most of them come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries that are close to Mexico’s southern border, and generally range in age from 14 to 17, though some are younger.
The jump comes as illegal immigration is down sharply overall, thanks to declining immigration from Mexico paired with a rising number of people returning south from the US.
While young immigrants have been picked up in increased numbers all along the southern border, the situation has become particularly acute in Texas. In one shelter at an Air Force base in San Antonio, about 200 children live in a squat, brown military barrack, sleeping on cots.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the situation in a letter to President Obama on Friday, calling the immigration surge a humanitarian crisis that the federal government wasn’t doing enough to alleviate. He noted that dozens of young immigrants to the US recently had to be quarantined due to a measles scare and an outbreak of chicken pox.
“By failing to take immediate action to return these minors to their country of origin and prevent others from coming, the federal government is perpetuating the problem,” the governor wrote.
The White House referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security. A spokesman for the department declined to comment on the Mexican law or to discuss the reasons behind the increase in border crossings by Central American children.
Immigration experts say a Mexican law enacted last May, which lets some kids who enter that country remain there without visas for humanitarian reasons, allows more children safe passage to the US border. The children are often transported by smugglers hired by family members, experts say.
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