Although the thousands of unaccompanied minors apprehended by the Border Patrol continues to be a focus of concern, the number of children turning themselves in at the ports of entry has also spiked.
The number of unaccompanied juveniles deemed inadmissible by the Tucson Office of Field Operations, which includes six land ports of entry and two international airports, has jumped from 29 minors in fiscal 2009 to 664 so far this fiscal year (as of June 18), Customs and Border Protection data show.
“I’m not surprised the numbers are going up at the ports because of the way the unaccompanied minors are turning themselves in quite openly between the ports in South Texas,” said Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America.
“They are not having to chase them through the scrub as they cross the river,” he said, “Border Patrol vehicles are up there and they walk up to them.”
The share of those presenting themselves through the ports of entry is still small though, compared to those who cross in between the ports. So far this fiscal year, the Border Patrol in the Tucson sector has apprehended more than 6,500 unaccompanied juveniles.
Nationwide, more than 57,000 Mexican and Central American children and youth traveling without parents or legal guardians have been apprehended by the Border Patrol so far this fiscal year. Most of them turned themselves in.
The agency has also caught more than 55,000 parents traveling with their children, but it has not provided a breakdown of how many of those are minors. Many of them are coming through South Texas, especially the Rio Grande Valley.
“We have two modes of entry: One is between the borders that is responsibility of Border Patrol,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner in a story that aired on Federal News Radio last week.
“But then we’ve had young children walking up to the bridges, walking to the ports of entry where our Customs and Border Protection officers — officers in blue uniforms — actually encounter them,” he said. “That also has required a great deal of humanitarian outreach by all of these people.”