The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has just issued a new report on “Unaccompanied Child Migration.” In it Marc Rosenblum attributes the surge to two factors: (1) violence and poor economic conditions, and (2) reconnecting with family in the United States, i.e., push and pull factors. He does not argue that the violence and poverty in the sending countries had recently increased, so that is not an explanation for the surge in illegal entry by the minors. That leaves the second explanation – reunion with family here as the sole explanation.
The MPI report notes that “…at least 85 percent of Central Americans arriving at the border have parents or other close family members in the United States.” The presence of so many illegal aliens from Central America who left children behind has also not changed significantly in recent years, so that also is not an explanation for the surge.
There are two things that have changed. First, the policy of Obama Administration in not deporting most illegal aliens who do not have serious criminal convictions and its advocacy of permanent residence through amnesty has changed the perception by the illegal alien population that they are here on borrowed time. Leaving children behind makes sense only if you expect to return to them in the future. The original mindset that they would try to make enough money to have a stake when they returned to their homeland voluntarily or involuntarily changed when the prospect appeared that they would be able to stay permanently and become eligible for the benefits of public assistance for low wage earners.
Second, the Obama administration’s executive action in establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) signaled that illegal alien youth would gain protected status even before any amnesty was adopted. This, coupled with the mantra of “family reunification” of the amnesty advocacy advocates underscored the message that the time had come to shift thinking from rejoining their children back in Central America to instead taking steps to have it happen here.
While it is convenient for apologists for the illegal alien youth, like MPI, to attempt to generate sympathy for them by focusing on conditions in their homelands, because this exonerates the Obama administration from responsibility for generating the migration crisis, it clearly is misleading.