Is the Obama Administration Following the Law in Dealing with the Child-Migrant Surge?

by Spencer Case

I have a piece on the homepage today about how the federal government anticipated the “surge” of unaccompanied alien children at the southern border, putting out requests for information from contractors who could help handle tens of thousands of children now coming into the U.S. That piece, however, did not take up the important issue of whether the Obama administration is handling the situation legally — for instance, whether some of the migrants now being transported around the country should be subject to immediate removal from the country.

When asked that question, Carl Rusnok, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) replied to NRO via e-mail stating: “Under the [Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of] 2008, UACs [unaccompanied alien children] are not subject to expedited removal.”

But, he says, “if UACs from contiguous countries meet certain criteria they may be returned to their home country immediately and would not be referred to HHS,” which handles longer-term stays with procedures described in the contracts I reported on.

Dan Cadman, a former ICE officer now with the Center for Immigration Studies, said that the answer “is correct as far as it goes,” but “doesn’t speak to all the facets of the surge.”

First, he said many of the children are from countries contiguous with the U.S., and so should be subject to expedited removal, which doesn’t seem to have been the case so far. Further, many of the children who arrive are accompanied by at least one parent and not all of the young people who have crossed the border are technically minors.

It’s hard to say just how much the law is being flouted, Cadman says, since the government “has not been fully forthright” with regard to relevant demographic information of the aliens. But it doesn’t seem that the government is removing aliens in any cases at all.

He said, “If they have undertaken any — any — expedited removals at all of people arriving as part of the surge, in order to deter those still contemplating the trek (who would obviously take note when deportees start returning to their respective villages), I have yet to hear about it.”

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