Since 1980, when formal U.S. refugee resettlement began, 1.8 million refugees have been invited to live in the United States, with recent annual refugee arrivals typically falling between 40,000 to 75,000. About 35 to 40 percent of refugees resettled in the U.S. are children, until recently the vast majority of which—about 95%—resettle in the U.S. with their parents.
But now the flood of migrant children alone trying to cross the Mexican border into the States has become an “urgent humanitarian situation”. In the past eight months alone, 47,000 children have been apprehended at the southwest border. The government estimates that as many as 60,000 children, mostly from Central America, could be caught at the border this year. That would be a nearly 10-fold increase since 2011.
Rampant crime and poverty across Central America, and a desire to reunite with parents or other relatives, is thought to be driving many of the young immigrants.
Late last week, the Obama administration asked Congress for $1.4 billion in extra funding to help house, feed and transport the tens of thousands of children being caught trying to cross the border illegally, and turned to the Defense Department to help temporarily house more than 1,000 of the children.
Obama’s director of domestic policy, Cecilia Munoz, said the increase in 2014 is larger than last year and the group also now includes more girls and larger numbers of children younger than 13. The increase appears to have caught the administration by surprise, despite growing increases over the past few years.