And yes, the situation is both unacceptable and unsustainable.
But right-wing talk radio hosts, lawmakers and cable news pundits need to relax and realize that a large number of the illegal minors they say need to be deported immediately back to their respective countries are children ages 12 and younger, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
In fact, according to Pew, the number of apprehended minors ages 12 and younger has increased this fiscal year by 117 percent from fiscal year 2013. This stands in sharp contrast to the mere 12 percent increase in apprehended minors ages 13-17 during this same time period.
“The new figures ... provide the first publicly available detailed portrait of the age and home country of child migrants — unaccompanied and accompanied — caught at the U.S.-Mexico border from Oct. 1, 2012, to May 31, 2014,” Pew reported, citing data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. “The time period covers the previous fiscal year and two-thirds (8 months) of the current one.”
Now, this isn't to say that teens aren't streaming over the U.S. border. They continue to do so in large numbers. Indeed, teens still represent the bulk of minors being rounded up by U.S. border agents (nine-in-10 apprehensions in fiscal year 2013 were teens).
Nevertheless, the recent increase in the number of very young unaccompanied minors has been nothing short of astonishing.
Here are some more specifics on the number of apprehended minors: “From October through the end of May, 46,932 unaccompanied children, nearly all from Mexico and Central America, were taken into custody,” Pew reported, citing data obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
That figure has likely increased to 57,525 through June, according to the same report.
“Among all countries, less than 1 percent (94 cases) of apprehended unaccompanied children are younger than 1, and only about 2 percent (785) are 5 or younger, according to data for the current fiscal year,” Pew reported. “Children ages 6 to 12 accounted for 14 percent (6,675) apprehensions. The U.S. categorizes children as 'unaccompanied' if they are not traveling with a parent or guardian, although they may have traveled with another relative.”
“While the surge in unaccompanied children has received a lot of media attention, the number of apprehensions of children who are accompanied by a parent or guardian has increased at a far faster clip, nearly tripling (160 percent increase) in less than a year,” the report added. “In the partial fiscal year 2014 data provided, 22,069 accompanied children were apprehended, up from just 8,479 during all of the previous fiscal year.”
Minors who travelled with with adults are usually much younger.
“About eight-in-10 (81 percent) apprehended accompanied children were 12 years or younger, compared with just 16 percent of apprehended unaccompanied children, according to the 2014 data,” the report noted. “By comparison, 38,759 children were apprehended all of last fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013.”
So why the sudden rush?
Well, we're likely seeing the influx of minors due to the the rise in poverty and gang-related violence in countries including Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Of course, it's also worth noting that several illegal immigrants are apparently under the impression that crossing over illegally into the United States will be forgiven by the White House.
Putting that aside for now, the fact that many of the unaccompanied minors are 12 and younger and that they're traveling here from violent, impoverished countries is, you know, maybe an important factor to consider when discussing how best to deal with the current crisis.
This is where we get into a much more unpleasant and contentious part of the immigration debate.
See, several talking heads have assured their audiences that the recent flood of illegal immigrants includes several hardened criminals and members of notorious gangs, including MS-13.
And although there's likely some truth to this claim that certain criminal elements have managed to sneak into the U.S. over the past few years, these claims have led to less-than-gracious rhetoric on the issue, including Twitter activists flooding the social media network with smart takes like this:
Carl Quance: 70,000 members of MS-13 are here; Welcomed by...president. #BorderCrisis pic.twitter.com/pN1ChkguAc— FIRE RINOs & DEMs (@Assoc7) July 22, 2014
And our personal favorite: A photo of a supposed “Mexican death train” carrying hundreds of illegal immigrants to America:
BREAKING: Mark Levin today Called for Congressional Investigation of ILLEGAL ALIEN Fiasco;Coordination NO Coincidence pic.twitter.com/p73G4ynCTH— Senate 2014 (@PJKirk7) July 22, 2014
The above photo, which has been circulated countless times on social media and was even featured on the Drudge Report, is not from Mexico. In fact, it's not even from this side of the globe. It's actually a photo of of a train in Bangladesh carrying devotees to the annual Biswa Ijtema event.
Anyway, the point isn't that the border crisis isn't a very real and very serious problem. Rather, the point is that maybe illegal immigration activists should back up for a moment and recalibrate their rhetoric to ensure that they don't push false claims and to avoid looking like they're uninformed on the issue.
Are there a certain number of criminals who have in recent months illegally entered the United States? Undoubtedly. Has the current border crisis made is easier for criminals to enter unnoticed? It most likely has. Is this a serious issue that needs to be resolved immediately? Of course.
But let's maybe dial it back a notch and remember that a sizable chunk of the recent immigrants who have crossed over illegally are children. They're not all hardened criminals and, uh, they're not coming here by way of Bangladesh.
When the dust settles, and when order has (hopefully) been restored to the border, it'll probably be best for the Right if it's not remembered for being the group that unflinchingly called for the deportation of children back home to their respective Murder Towns. A little compassion and consideration is not a vice in this situation.
Yes, U.S. immigration law must be observed and enforced. But the debate over how best to resolve the current border crisis must also include debate over the preservation of human life and the well-being of children.
And if you're of the mind that consideration for the health of children who have come here from violent countries has no place in the debate over how to deal with the recent flood of immigrant minors, or if you believe that it simply doesn't matter, congratulations: You're now a character from a Charles Dickens book.