Addressing the Unaccompanied Minor Illegal Alien Problem

14403835283_d9e6438bde_oThe southern border crisis that has been brewing ever since the Obama administration adopted an unauthorized amnesty for illegal aliens who entered the country as minors, has forced policymakers to address the issue of what can be done to stem the wave of young Central Americans. So far, however, the needed response has remained elusive.

The administration’s focus on the issue, led to the conclusion that a response to the current crisis is complicated by the Trafficking Victims law reauthorized in 2008. That law makes the deportation process not only slow but also easy for immigration lawyers and support groups to manipulate in favor of the illegal aliens. That law, in addition to the administration’s l persistent undermining of immigration enforcement means that it lacks credibility when it tries to convince the aliens and the U.S. public that it will turn the newly arrived illegal aliens around and send them back home. It is a toothless threat. So the administration surfaced the idea of amending or repealing the law so that the Central American minors could be sent home just as Mexican and Canadian illegal entrants who are sent back expeditiously.

But, that proposal has run into furious criticism from defenders of illegal aliens. Most recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the administration to further gum up the deportation process for these minors by insisting that each and every minor must be provided a lawyer paid for by the government. As a result of the flak from the left, the administration failed to include any remedial legislative proposal when it submitted a supplemental appropriation request to fund the agencies that are responding to the illegal alien surge.

While legislative action to eliminate the Trafficking Victims bottleneck is needed, it is not the only issue that needs to be dealt with. A potentially more effective deterrent to the surge in unaccompanied minors is available immediately without legislation. The nature of the action is hinted at in this comment from a senior official involved in the crisis management, who confirmed that minors are being released to the custody of guardians who are themselves illegal aliens. “We do not verify the immigration status of the individual,” said Mark H. Greenberg, acting assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, adding that it’s department policy not to ask that question.”

It is not against the law to ask for identification of the family members claiming the newly arrived illegal aliens – it is simply a policy not to do so.

Imagine the effect if the family members had to identify themselves and were served a notice to appear for a removal hearing if they were illegal aliens themselves – as is likely in most cases (or otherwise there would be legal options for the minors to come to join the family here). The likely result would be a screeching halt in the funds sent to Central American smugglers to bring these youth to the border.

Would the Obama administration do this? It would have to change the enforcement priority scheme that it is currently applying, but if it seriously was interested in stemming the tide of this growing wave of illegal entrants, it could readily do so.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    This crisis exposes a major flaw in Immigration Enforcement that wasn’t addressed in the Senate Bill that passed.
    It took two years for the public to become aware of a brewing crisis concerning a loophole in the law for minors.

    Any reform needs to include setting up the infrastructure to accurately monitor enforcement with monthly data on attempts to thwart our laws. These numbers have to be professionally collected by experts who are apolitical. They need to paint an accurate picture of how effective enforcement is, where loopholes are being exploited, and where countermeasures need to be rapidly established by DHS.

    Monthly metrics on Immigration Enforcement are the key to making it a data-driven, goal-oriented system. It is the missing ingredient needed to continuously drive new illegal immigration, visa overstays and birth tourism down to zero.

  2. avatar

    There is a tent city in Maricopa County AZ for the lawbreakers in Sheriff Arpaio’s county. If it’s good enough to house our American citizens who commit crimes, why is it too harsh for illegal immigrants who committed the crime of crossing the border of a sovereign nation. No we have to find them “suitable housing”. Find Americans suitable housing while you’re at it.

  3. avatar


    • avatar

      Sure, there is a strong urge to escape, but if that were not possible, I’d work with others to confront the criminal gangs.
      I’d work to toughen the laws, and law enforcement. I’d study other latin countries that have successfully defeated cartels and gun violence (e.g., Columbia), and I’d get outside help from 1st world countries. The problem with running away from the situation is that it doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem. By habit, I focus on root causes and fixing problems at that level.

  4. avatar

    it is not our problem!! Make Obama and his wife pay for them!! they have all the money!! Every thing has gone up because of this Obama mess since he has been in ffice!! He should be impeached!! No one has any backbone in the Congress to do this!!

  5. avatar

    I was watching the senate hearing yesterday on illegal minors entering the US and I had to laugh. The HHS Secretary was asked if it would be ok for members of congress to visit these detention facilities holding the 60,000+ ‘children’ (who are mainly teenagers and older). Her response was steeped in irony: She said that this would be fine but stressed the importance of making advance reservations or notifications before their visits.

    So… 50,000, or 500,000 (or a million?) minors we know nothing at all about enter the country illegally (whenever and wherever) – that’s fine with her. But if a few members of congress, arguably our most important individuals and representatives, request to merely visit and inspect taxpayer-funded detention centers for these illegals… no, they need a reservation. Amazing.

  6. avatar

    That might be worth a try, but from what I understand, only a small percentage of illegals ever show up for their hearings. There are so many foreigners in this country now you can’t tell legal immigrants from illegal. They live amongst us with impunity, further emboldened by the many misguided support groups rooting for and helping them.

  7. avatar
    Obama is a globalist and does as he wants to meet that goal. The "children" are young people who are here for the American Dream. Send them back since our children have been robbed of theirs. It is an invasion of our country by another to open our borders on

    Obama is a globalist and does as he wants to meet that goal. The “children” are young people who are here for the American Dream. Send them back since our children have been robbed of theirs. It is an invasion of our country by another to open our borders for their Americas Union. It is their dream but our nightmare. Mexico full of poverty and extremely rich are bringing it to our country. Obama should be impeached and jailed along with the Bush President since they signed treaties and agreements behind our backs. If the Republicans want to take Obama to court this would be good reason not their self thing to win political money from the IRS and win the election. It is treason.

    • avatar

      Then make sure your children r not lazy and dumb….. and learn what it is to work hard….. and have the talent to create jobs… otherwise u r cooked

  8. avatar

    The 3.7 billion dollar request for funds to deal with this crisis is the usual cart before the horse method of dealing with illegal immigration that has been going on for the last thirty years. It deals with the consequences and not the causes. Until the policy is changed that allows them to be released into this country, this is going to continue and only grow bigger. We reward illegal entry. The border crossers are smart enough to figure this out. Our government, not so much.

    It’s the same way “reform” is being touted as the answer to this. Really? Granting citizenship to those here illegally and tripling the number of guest workers allowed here is going to solve this how?

  9. avatar
    arnlof sweigeir ft on

    really?…. and again the republicans did nothing about it, like Obamacare……