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Unaccompanied Minors Crossing Border Has Tripled, Report Finds

In fiscal 2012, nearly 25,000 unaccompanied minors who came into the United States illegally were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, more than triple the rate in 2008, according to a new report from Stateline.

In a border state like Texas, as many as 120 undocumented children are crossing into the U.S. alone each day.

That means that even as the entry of undocumented adult immigrants has fallen off, the numbers of undocumented children arriving in the U.S. alone is on a steep uptick.

This increasing inflow of undocumented children comes to light just as Congress is in the heat of shaping an immigration reform measure, that, in its current form, includes a provision to ensure that unaccompanied minors receive legal representation. Under federal law now, these children are not entitled to lawyers as they go through immigration proceedings.

In fiscal 2012, more than half of the children who were stopped at the border were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an arm of the U.S. Health and Human Services agency, which places them in shelters and group homes in states around the country. The other 10,000 or so children who were stopped were from Mexico and were sent home. A report issued last year by a nonprofit group that provides legal services to some unaccompanied minors paints a complex and intimidating picture of the process these children go through once they are apprehended.

Most of them say they are fleeing gang and drug violence and extreme poverty in their home countries; some are seeking to reunite with parents and other family members already in the United States.

Three-quarters of the unaccompanied minors are boys and most are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, according to the report. Most of them fall between the ages of 14 and 17, but 12 percent of them are younger than 14.

Once they are in the ORR system of care, unaccompanied minors are supposed to receive basic services, including education. Education Week wrote about these schools for unaccompanied minors in 2006.

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