OK, this whole immigration thing where tens of thousands of Unaccompanied Alien Children are flooding into the US is just a little weird.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order a couple of years back declaring that immigrants under age 30 wouldn’t be deported. This was meant to affect only immigrants already here. Apparently, that last bit of nuance was lost on lots of media outlets in Central America, and word spread that if you were young and went to America, you wouldn’t be sent back.
A flood of UACs ensued.
This week, as reported by Politico, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made a public plea to parents of children from Central America who are trying to come to the United States illegally.
He warned them that the dangers children can face are “far too great” for them to trek from Central America to the US.
The article points out that about 52,000 UACs have been apprehended along the southwestern border this fiscal year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30) as of June 15, and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended as of late May.
Along with Johnson’s comments this week, Vice President Joe Biden made an emergency trip to Central America to talk to leaders about the problem.
Also this week, President Obama admonished Central American governments to discourage the surge.
All of this recent chatter, plus the overall tone of news reports and the adminstration’s responses, led me to believe this was a fairly recent development – that the government was taken by surprise.
They’ve known about it for quite awhile. They were well aware. They knew the immigration surge was going to happen and they sought bids from private contractors to move the UACs around.
In January, the Department of Homeland security sought “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children.”
From the bid request:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has a continuing and mission critical responsibility for accepting custody of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from U.S. Border Patrol and other Federal agencies and transporting these juveniles to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States. ...
The Contractor shall provide unarmed escort staff,, ... for non-criminal/non-delinquent unaccompanied alien children ages infant to 17 years of age, seven (7) days a week, 365 days a year. ... Transport will be required for either category of UAC or individual juveniles, to include both male and female juveniles. There will be approximately 65,000 UAC in total ...”
And this, at the end:
The Government anticipates awarding a five (5) year Fixed Price Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle consisting of a one-year base period, and four (4) option years.
From this bid request, it appears government officials not only knew there would be tens of thousands of UACs flooding into the country, they expect it could continue for five years.
For whatever reason, the surge of UACs slipped completely under the radar of the media, until things got really crazy at the border over the past few weeks.
There’s really no excuse for the media being surprised either, because, the government’s own reporting, which certainly is available to the media, showed the surge started happening as early as 2012.
In November 2013, the Conference of Catholic Bishops reported on a delegation from its Migration and Refugee Services division.
The report: “Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States,” was completed after a group traveled to southern Mexico and Central America to examine and understand the flight of UACs from the region.
They cited government statistics in their report:
Since 2011, the United States has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied migrating children arriving to the country, predominately at the U.S./Mexico border. Whereas the number of children apprehended averaged 6,800 between federal fiscal years  2004 and 2011, the total jumped to over 13,000 children in FY2012 and over 24,000 children in FY 2013.
HHS ORR, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimate that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors could enter the United States during 2014.
The conference of bishops was so concerned about the surge of UACs that they sent a delegation to find out what in the world was going on down there.
Their 16-page report outlines some pretty awful conditions that are causing the surge north.
The conclusion:
The situation of child migration from Central America is a complex one, with no easy answers. It is a result of social and economic insecurity, lack of protection, violence and coercion, and the desire to be with family. It is clear, however, that more must be done to address the root causes of this flight and to protect children and youth in the process.  ...
We ask our elected officials to consider the individual stories of these vulnerable migrants and open their minds and hearts to their plight. We ask them to respond to the needs of these children, not to turn them away or ostracize them. American values include compassion and Americans are a compassionate people.
We look forward to working with Congress, the Administration, and others of good will in pursuing just solutions to the challenge of child migration.
I have questions.
Why wasn’t the government sending delegations to get to the bottom of this years ago? The bishops did.
Why wasn’t the government doing anything to try to head it off before it got to this point?
Since it’s obvious the administration was far from being blindsided by this, why are they acting so surprised about it now?
And why did the media sit on their hands when there was plenty of evidence – and hard government data – showing that this problem was building for years?
If one was really skeptical, one might – with raised eyebrows and lowered chin – suspect this would be a good way to implode our current immigration system and force reform.
But that’s just really too conspiratorial to even consider, isn’t it?