Number of Unaccompanied Children 12 and Under Entering U.S. Illegally Jumps 117%

Barbara Boland
By Barbara Boland | July 23, 2014 | 11:59 AM EDT

The number of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. illegally via the U.S.-Mexico border aged 12 and younger is up 117% compared to last year, data released by Pew Research shows.

In stark contrast, the number of unaccompanied teenagers aged 13-17 has increased 12% for the period Oct. 1, 2013, to May 31, 2014, compared to year-ago. Children aged 6 to 12 accounted for 14% (6,675) of those apprehended crossing the border.

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At 27%, Honduras is sent the largest share of unaccompanied young children. El Salvador made up 22% of the total apprehended unaccompanied 12 years old or younger at the border, and Guatemala accounted for 10%.

Mexico, a country whose minors can be immediately sent back without U.S. court processes, made up 3% of the total, the same percent as in fiscal year 2013.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) are sponsoring legislation that would treat Central American minors the same as those from Mexico or Canada. It would require an immigration judge to rule within three days whether the child will stay in the U.S. or be deported.

Cuellar noted:

"If you're a Mexican, you get sent back. Mother, kids, adults, you're sent back, but if you're from a noncontiguous country like the Central American countries, then the law says that you are going to be held, and Health and Human Services, they're going to place you. That's the law that we need to change right now."

Pew Research obtained its data through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

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