May 27, 2014
The Washington Examiner
A city-sized rush of about 120,000 illegal immigrant children and teens from Latin America is expected to crash through the U.S. border this year, twice the administration’s prediction, leading humanitarians to seek much more than the $1.5 billion spent to handle the runaways.
U.S. authorities report that there was massive surge in May of children trying to escape crime, drug gangs and sexual exploitation in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, leading them to cast aside the administration’s prediction of 60,000, which was still more than twice the 24,000 apprehended last year.
“It’s a city of children,” said Annie Wilson, executive vice president for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a national group that works with the government to settle child refugees and exiles.
“It’s 100,000 kids on their feet walking out of their country,” she said, adding that the numbers are “unprecedented” and due more to avoiding threats back home than the lure of America.
“In desperation, people have chosen the impossible odds of fleeing over what seems like the certainty of death and fear,” added Rev. David Vasquez, a campus pastor for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and an immigration advocate.
LIRS on Tuesday announced a new campaign, dubbed “#ActOfLove,” to win added funding. It also sent a petition to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seeking emergency funds and better protections for the children.
“When disasters strike, the United States steps forward. This is just such a moment,” the letter said. “It’s a large-scale disaster that calls for an immediate and generous response.”
Unlike adult illegal immigrants, children crossing the border on their own are generally linked up with family members in the United States and helped through the immigration process, not sent home. Faith-based groups like 75-year-old LIRS help in the effort which the federal government budgets $1.5 billion for.
At a press conference to announce #ActOfLove, LIRS officials said that the current efforts by the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services are overwhelmed and need more money. They also cheered a proposal in Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget for an emergency contingency fund to help with illegal immigration surges.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at [email protected].