Looking at the Border Patrol’s statistics, the last three months of 2015 showed a surge in apprehensions of undocumented border-crossers on our southwest frontier with Mexico that suggested that Fiscal Year 2016, of which it was the first quarter, was going to be the busiest year for wannabe refugees in recent history.
Then, for reasons no one has explained, the pace slowed dramatically, putting the rate of arrests of parents and children just at the high end of normal, a distant second place behind the record-setting Fiscal Year 2014 when close to half a million parents and children were arrested, almost 70,000 kids traveling lone.
If this summer sees the normal increase in human traffic, Fiscal Year 2016 could add close to 60,000 new kids to be processed into detention facilities.
What will happen to these children? The honest answer is, we really do not know. All we have are the statistics supplied by the Office for Refugee Resettlement, the agency of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for the children’s care.
In 2015, probably the slowest year for migration in the last five, 33,726 children were remanded to ORR custody…85 percent of them, 28,531, were sent to shelters,…13 percent, 4,514, were placed in long-term foster parenting, …two percent, 618, were placed in juvenile detention.
It’s that group, the two percent who were placed in juvenile detention…the “worst” kids as they were described by someone, that our guest Tyche Hendricks has been reporting on for the California Report of KQED radio in San Francisco. Tyche is a veteran print and radio reporter in the Bay Area and has written a book, “The Wind Doesn’t Need a Passport: Stories from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.”
The ORR (Office of Refugee Re-Settlement) juvenile detention system is the supermax class of juvenile holding center that includes more than 100 lower-security shelters, some mental health facilities, and every year takes in tens of thousands of children under the age of 18, almost all of them from Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador.
Both the shelters for “ordinary” kids caught at or near the border without any adult relatives in sight, and the juvenile detention centers share one, for me, really alarming characteristic: almost everything bout them but the numbers is carefully hidden from public view.
Tyche Hendricks is the editor of Governing California, a project of The California Report, where she’s responsible for on air and on-line coverage of state governance.
Hendricks spent more than a dozen years at newspapers, most of them at the San Francisco Chronicle, where she covered immigration, demographics and immigrant communities. She has also reported on local government, transportation, urban planning, cops and courts and schools. She has worked at the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, the San Jose Mercury News and the Seattle Times.
Hendricks reported extensively on the U.S.-Mexico border and her book, “The Wind Doesn’t Need a Passport: Stories from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands,” was published by the University of California Press in June 2010. She teaches at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
“A Guide to Children Arriving at the Border: Laws, Policies and Responses” – American Immigration Council
“Unaccompanied Children Released to Sponsors By State” – U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement
“Facts and Data” – U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement