Why the Surge in Central American Minors?

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. 

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
    GeorgeTyrebyter on

    We need to stop enforcing the border, and start enforcing the eVerify use. If every job and every housing application required a document connected to a live database, the illegals would be apprehended immediately. We could also find the hidden millions of visa overstays.

  2. avatar
    GeorgeTyrebyter on

    The surge in illegals is driven by Obama and the “permiso”. It’s a rumor, true, but report after report shows that the illegals believe it exists. And now the Obama administration is flying illegals in. Aid and comfort to criminals!! What an amazing time we live in.

  3. avatar

    Illegal immigration is surging because it is Obama’s policy to encourage it while pretending to prevent it. Democrats love illegals because they help perpetuate a huge underclass of poor who will be massive clients of the welfare state here. Most Republicans like illegal immigration because it helps keep down wages:

    –WASHINGTON, DC — A U.S. Border Patrol agent from the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas told lawmakers today that his fellow agents are punished for reporting illegal alien groups of more than 20. “Agents who repeatedly report groups larger than 20 face retribution. Management will either take them out of the field and assign them to processing detainees at the station or assign them to a fixed position in low volume areas as punishment,” Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera told a Senate panel. “Needless to say Agents got the message and now stay below this 20 person threshold no matter the actual size of the group.”

    Cabrera is the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) Local 3307, a union for border agents. He testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on behalf of NBPC.

    The border agent told lawmakers that the Obama administration is misleading the American people by manipulating border security data.

    Cabrera also told lawmakers that the 6 out of every 10 illegal aliens who attempt to cross the southwest border into the United States are not apprehended.

    “Ask any line Agent in the field and he or she will tell you that at best we apprehend 35-40% of the illegal immigrants attempting to cross. This number is even lower for drug smugglers who are much more adept at eluding capture,” he said.

    U.S. Border Patrol is a component of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. CBP operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    “If you ask this question of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or senior management at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), they will tell you the border is secure,” testified Cabrera. “They may even point to statistics and metrics showing that the Border Patrol is 75% effective in apprehending illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.”

    “I want to be crystal clear – the border is not secure,” he continued.

    The Rio Grande Valley Sector is one of the busiest corridors for illegal cross-border activity.–


  4. Pingback: Why the sudden surge of Central American children at the border? - TeeJaw Blog

  5. avatar

    Oh, please. Those of us without blinders know exactly why this is happening: 1) the Democrats are ruthlessly pushing theirs globalist agenda; 2) the Democrats’ crass, lawless, unprincipled and unapologetic long term goal to inflate the number of Democratic voters in the USA. It’s all about ideology and political power. Absolutely nothing more.

  6. avatar

    Drugs and gangs are NOT the reason for the migration. Over-population is. Unrestrained, thoughless breeding with no idea of how to feed the all has caused them to seek more territory to expand to feed their bloated populations with the southwest US being the best target. Drugs and gangs has been a way of life in Central America for centuries and they are moving north in search of food. Hungrey people are dangerous and they will kill you.

  7. avatar

    The majority of people coming from south of our borders do not have a way to immigrate legally other than through “family reunification”. The most likely possible way for some is the diversity visa lottery which Congress is looking to abolish. Therefore, their best hope is to get a family member who is likely to be granted amnesty into the US who can later sponsor family to sponsor family ad infinitum.

    The solution is to abolish the current family reunification with the exception of spouses and minor children and implement an lottery open only to individuals 21 or older currently resident in their home country who have not been illegally present inside the US within the last 10 years. The country quotas would be set based on the number of applicants from each country with a guaranteed minimum and set maximum. The lottery would be handled as the DV lottery is now with a selectee allowed to bring a spouse and minor children – all of the family are counted against the country quota.

    By requiring a potential immigrant to be in compliance with US laws regarding illegal entry while giving them the possibility of eventually receiving a green card. I would allow the family to receive some benefits for a year or two while they become established and then prohibit them from receiving benefits for a period of time (like 5 years or so).

    The group that we must stop allowing into the country are elderly parents who become dependent on social serices and drains on the health care system while never having made a single day’s contribution to the US.

    In addition, sponsorship requirements should take into account the cost of health insurance. The current 125% of poverty level is absurd.

    If they want to grant amnesty to those currently in the country (which I oppose), they should create a legal status not leading to citizenship that grant a person alone indefinite leave to remain in the country but without the ability to sponsor anyone else.

    The ability of citizens to sponsor spouses needs to address the issue of marriage for a green card. A person who has gained a green card and then citizenship through marriage should not be able to divorce and bring in someone else in a relatively short period of time. All green cards by marriage should be provisional for a period longer than the current 2 years and there be no adjustment of status following a divorce – only deportation.

  8. avatar

    Asylum from Central American Violence is Not the Reason for the DACA Kid Dump on America


    “…Duffy responded by bringing Todd’s attention to the culpability of the Obama Administration.

    “We have to recognize what has really caused the crisis. There’s really no more violence or poverty in Central America over the president’s presidency,” Duffy told Todd.

    “What has happened is that the president has made statements about our dreamers which many Republicans and Democrats have agreed with… those are our young kids who are undocumented and living here in America. He’s made bold statements, and that has sent the message to this region that if you send your children to America, they will get amnesty.


  9. Pingback: Today’s Immigration Headlines – April 9, 2015