An influx of unaccompanied children crossing the Mexican boarder is putting a strain on the resources of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the department tasked with providing basic necessities to detained illegal immigrants.
In a bid solicitation posted earlier this month, the agency said it needs 3,500 pairs of 100 percent cotton men's briefs from sizes medium to extra large. But the agency has bigger problems than the bare bottoms of border hoppers.
With more than 52,000 Central American minors arrested since October, the patrol stations in South Texas have nowhere to put them. According to permits obtained by the Associated Press, the U.S. government plans to turn an empty 22,000 square-foot warehouse near the Rio Grande Valley's busiest Border Patrol station into a facility to house 1,000 children in "four fence-enclosed pods inside a corrugated steel warehouse." The new "processing facility" will have rows of cells with unsecured doors and open "interaction/play" areas.
Currently the U.S. detains minors who illegally enter the country without an adult. A 2008 law requires them to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours. But because HHS is overwhelmed as well, this procedure is rarely followed, said Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate during a recent congressional hearing.
When the children are finally turned over to HHS, they are "processed" and then sent to shelters around the country. Only later does the department make arrangements to send them back to their home countries. This is not true for all children who are caught crossing the border. Mexican children can usually be sent back immediately.
The problem is that the majority of unaccompanied children are coming from places like Honduras and Guatemala. Tragically, many of these children are fleeing to the U.S. to escape poverty and seek refuge from gangs and violence.
Children and their families are reportedly being convinced by people known as coyotes, who facilitate human smuggling, that they will receive permits to stay in the U.S. because of President Obama's 2011 Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants to apply for a two-year authorization. The program would not apply to new immigrants, however. Applicants must have been in the U.S. for at least five years as of 2012.
And unfortunately things look like they're only going to get worse as the number of children immigrating illegally is expected to keep rising. Border Patrol better order more underwear.