The closing of shelters for illegal immigrant unaccompanied minor children at Lackland Air Force Base and elsewhere show the changing dynamics of the months long border crossing crisis, officials tell News Radio 1200 WOAI.
U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who has been a leader in this issue, says the flow of unaccompanied children into the U.S. has slowed significantly, and the children who remain are being transferred to private facilities.
"This is a little less expensive than the $500 a day we spend on the children in the Department of Defense Facilities," Cuellar says.
The costs at the new shelter for mothers with children that opened last week near Karnes City is about $140 a day per resident.
"Lets save those taxpayers money while at the same time we take care of the kids in a proper way."
Now, the question more and more focuses on what should be done with the unaccompanied minors who are in the United States. About 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border into the U.S. this year, many driven by false promises sold to their families by cartels, claiming that all they have to do is get to the U.S. and they will receive a 'permiso,' a non existent piece of paper allowing them to remain in the country.
Another 32,000 children have arrived with a parent.
The Obama Administration has vowed to increase the number of immigration judges, and the detention center near Karnes City has two fully equipped court rooms to handle deportation hearings expeditiously. ICE officials say the vast majority of the children who are in the facility will be returned to their home countries, most within three weeks of arrival.
But Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, says the fact that many of these children are coming to the U.S. to live with relatives who are already here shows a deeper issue affecting U.S. immigration system.
She says rather than speeding up the pace of deportations, they should be slowed down, and the children should be allowed to be reunited with their families.
"We now know about this family because the child has told us," she told Newsradio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board. "Lets put that family, put those parents in the proceeding."
She says if it turns out that the family is living in the U.S. illegally, the entire family, not just the child, should face deportation hearings.
"Why waste the time to a San Antonio judge changing venue," she said. "Lets let the case proceed normally, now that we know where the family is located."
She says not only would this allow officials to root out families who are in the U.S. illegally and raise the question of their own residency in the U.S., it would also give the children less incentive to come here illegally. The families in the U.S. are often sending money back to Central America, and if the family in Honduras knows that if a child heads to the U.S. not only will they be deported, but the source of that funding may be dried up as well, would change the face of the immigration debate.
The fact that politicians are discussing children has allowed advocates for immigrant rights to play the emotion card, asking why Americans are 'so cruel' as to punish 'little children.' But if the whole family is brought into the immigration and deportation hearing, that changes that dynamic.
"Handle those parents’ cases, figure out whether they are allowed to stay or go, and the child is going to go with them."