(CNSNews.com) – Among the more than 111,000 unaccompanied alien children who have crossed the U.S. border illegally since October 2011, only about 6 percent have been removed to their home country by the federal government, leaving the other 94 percent still in the United States, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Director of Field Operations Philip Miller.
According to Miller’s written testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, ICE has transferred about 111,250 unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) since the start of fiscal year 2012, which began on Oct. 1, 2011.
Unaccompanied children, often referred to as UCs, are children under 18 who crossed the border without a parent.
“In fiscal year (FY) 2012, ICE transfers of UC to HHS/ORR reached nearly 12,000. In FY 2013, that number nearly doubled to 23,000. In FY 2014, DHS transfers of UC to HHS rose to nearly 58,000. As of the end of the third quarter of FY 2015, we have seen a return to more manageable numbers with 18,246 UC transferred to HHS, though this is still high relative to the historic levels we saw prior to FY 2012,” Miller wrote in his testimony.
“Since 2012, 7,013 UC have been removed from the United States and returned to their countries of origin,” he said. “Of those, 1,682; 2,347; and 601 were repatriated to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, respectively.”
Mexicans and immigrants from other Latin American countries travel
on top of a train in Mexico, heading for the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP)
Out of an estimated total of 111,250, this means only about 6 percent have been removed from the United States by the federal government. About 105,000 have so far been allowed to remain in the United States.
During the hearing, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) focused on unaccompanied children coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. For these three countries alone, he said, the federal government has issued removal orders for less than 6 percent of the total unaccompanied children who have come to the United States illegally since 2009.
“Since 2009, from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, there’ve been over 100,000 – 109,000 -- unaccompanied children coming to this country,” Johnson said.
“Of the children coming in 2009, we returned about 30 percent. In 2010, we returned about 22 percent. In 2011, we returned about 24 percent. In 2012, 12 percent. In 2013, 6.2 percent. In 2014, 2.7 percent. And as of 2015, about 3.8 percent,” he explained.
“So in all, we’ve returned about 5.7 percent, about 6,248 unaccompanied children, and we’ve had 109,000 come into this country illegally,” Johnson said.
“Is that sending a signal to the people in Central America that as an unaccompanied child, if you come into America, you’ve got about a 95, 94.3 percent chance of being able to stay? Is that a disincentive for making that trip? Or an incentive for making that trip?” he added. “I would say it’s an incentive.”
Federal law mandates that the Department of Homeland Security turn unaccompanied children over to the ORR after they are apprehended at the border. The ORR then cares for the child until he or she can be released to a sponsor in the United States, often a family member already living in the country, while they await immigration proceedings that can often take years to complete.
During this time, the children are enrolled in schools throughout the country.
According to HHS, 53,518 children were released to U.S.-based sponsors in FY2014. Another 14,773 have been released to sponsors so far in FY2015.
According to a recent report by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), 10,591 immigration cases for unaccompanied children were completed between July 18, 2014 and May 26, 2015. Of these, 6,248 were ordered removed from the country.
Of those removal orders, 5,453 of them -- about 87 percent -- were handed down in absentia, meaning the child was not in court for the judge’s final decision.
About half of all completed cases ended in “administrative closings,” “termination,” or other relief from deportation. There are about 22,000 pending cases for unaccompanied children that were begun after July 18 of last year, the report added.