June 10, 2014

Number of Latino children caught trying to enter U.S. nearly doubles in less than a year

The number of Mexican and Central American minors, unaccompanied by parents, trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

A record number of unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border since October, an influx so large that President Obama has called it an “urgent humanitarian situation.” To help house the overflow of children, emergency shelters have opened at military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma, in addition to a facility in Arizona. And the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday unveiled a new $2 million legal aid program to help children navigate immigration courts.

Between Oct. 1, 2013, and May 31 of this year, 47,017 unaccompanied children under 18 traveling without a parent or guardian were taken into custody, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That total is nearly twice as high as all of the last fiscal year (24,493 apprehensions), with four months yet to go in the current fiscal year. One unofficial government estimate projects apprehensions rising to 90,000 in 2014—nearly four times as many as the year before.

Sharp rise in unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America apprehended at the U.S. border.While Mexico is the top source of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., three of every four unaccompanied children apprehended this year have come from Central America. Honduras, a nation wracked by gang violence, has seen the most striking increases. This year, more than 13,000 unaccompanied Honduran children were apprehended at the U.S. border compared with the 968 children apprehended five years ago. The number of unaccompanied Honduran children apprehended in 2014 so far is already nearly twice as high as all of last year.

The spike in apprehensions has come largely in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande sector, which is located along the southernmost tip of Texas, and bounded by Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico. Some 71% (or 33,470) of all apprehensions of unaccompanied minors this year have taken place here. Compared with 2013, apprehensions eight months into this year in the Rio Grande sector are up 168%. By comparison, the sector with the next highest number, the Tucson sector in Arizona, which runs 262 miles along the U.S. border with Mexico, has 6,254 apprehensions so far this year, nearly equal to the total from all of 2013 (6,569).

Obama administration officials have said the increase in unaccompanied youth at the border could be due to violence and poor economies in children’s home countries, such as in Honduras and El Salvador, and the spread of rumors that children who arrive at the border without parents won’t be deported. Meanwhile, Republicans blame a 2012 policy that has resulted in two-year work permits and deportation relief being given to more than 600,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. With the first round of permit renewals coming up, Republicans blame that policy for stoking rumors that the U.S. won’t deport children.

Children caught at the border are placed in deportation proceedings, and turned over to a family member in the U.S. who can care for them while their case moves through immigration court. If family can’t be located, the children are placed in the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mexican children are more likely than those from Central America to be deported quickly and reunited with family in their home country, in part because of agreements between the United States and Mexico governments.

While figures on the age and gender of unaccompanied minors from Central Americans countries were not available, 98% of the minors from Mexico who were apprehended last year by U.S. authorities and returned to Mexican authorities were ages 12 to 17, and 89% were males, according to the Mexican government.

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Ana Gonzalez-Barrera

    is a senior researcher focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. José Carlos3 years ago

    So all these “Latino” unauthorized immigrants come from 4 countries of Latin America. And 3 out of 4 come from a set of 3 very specific countries -Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala- that host together ca. 5% of Latin America’s population.

    It is time to stop talking about “Latino” children/unauthorized immigrants, and talk about Honduran, Salvadorean and Guatemalan immigration. The nOtherwise the discussion and perceptions lose focus of the very particular tragedy of these three societies, which has not much to do with the majority of Latin America. Just see the children caught per 100,000 people in their home country to see how specific is the phenomenon: Honduras 166, El Salvador 164, Guatemala 76, Mexico 9.

  2. janie3 years ago

    Seattle Washington is wide open too for all to enter. America, should also be concerned about undocumented Asian’s that are also coming into America too.

  3. Marvin S. Robinson, II3 years ago

    Last week reports stated that 92% of African American Youth in Chicago were UNEMPLOYED, today this report: which simply re-enforces the urgent -EMERGENCY to implement a DOMESTIC and GLOBAL new 21st century W.P.A. ( WORKING PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION ).
    Incidentally MILLIONS and MILLIONS of American Citizens are chronically and severely UNEMPLOYED, alongside and including VETERANS, in as many demographics.
    A new 21st W.P.A. both DOMESTICALLY in the United States and GLOBALLY – Internationally with live-able wages and meaningful salaries inside each of those respective markets: would and could focus on important and essential PROJECTS like: CLIMATE CHANGE, WATER TREATMENT PLANTS, ENERGY Futures, Road and Highway Infrastructure, and be under-scored and inter-twined with UNIVERSITY Institutions as management- administrators; towards linkage of EMPLOYMENT directly to EDUCATIONAL Futures.
    Anything less, than a MASSIVE new 21st century W.P.A. will continue to diminish the HUMANITARIAN and Spiritual maturity of a sophisticated population cultural readiness to resolve the harshness and severity of Immigrations secondary impacts. THANKS for allowing this concept to shared-
    Marvin S. Robinson, II
    Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- exercise 2015

    1. Seravo3 years ago

      Nice and fuzzy feeling idea with one fatal flaw. You assume everybody wants to work.

    2. slk3 years ago

      more government intervention!!! name one federal program or dept, thats run efficiently and in the black!!! you can pinpoint the decline in American education, with the start of the doe!!! climate change!!! the climate changes continually everyday, the mornings are cool, warmer in the afternoon, and cooler again!!! when you can tell us what the dinosaurs and cavemen did wrong, we’ll listen!!! and what good will cutting down on fossil fuels (job decreaser, and raising rates), help, when most people can’t afford alternative fuels??? no one alive, will be present, when nuclear (the future) will be used!!! humanitarian and spirituality, will be better served, if people are allowed to “live”, rather then suffer!!!

    3. Margie and Don McGill3 years ago

      YES, yes, yes! If we could bring back the WPA we could get lots of important things done and employ many people in the process. Why don’t we encourage all the banks who are sitting on enormous piles of money to invest in a private enterprise that resembles the WPA’s structure?

      Between the WPA and the CCC, tremendous projects were accomplished in the U.S., and we can do it again. All it takes is the congress agreeing [good luck with that], and the Whitehouse taking the initiative to start the ball rolling. Let’s all campaign for this in the next few months and see if we can move America into a period of working together again as we did in the 30s and 40s.