National Edition

Thousands of unaccompanied migrant children are at the border — what's the solution?

Published: Thursday, July 10 2014 7:35 a.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, July 10 2014 4:10 p.m. MDT

Immigration activists with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) demand the Mexican government take more measures to protect and respect the rights of unaccompanied minors and families crossing Mexico's territory, during a protest outside the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles Thursday, July 3, 2014. Activists demand support of migrant children and families Thursday, two days after U.S. Homeland Security buses carrying the migrants were routed away from American flag-waving protesters in Murrieta, Calif., and transported to a facility in San Diego.

Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

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In response to the influx of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S. border by the thousands, Pres. Obama is seeking nearly $4 billion in emergency funding to help, The New York Times reported.

"The financial request, which is almost twice as much as initial reports had suggested might be necessary, would boost spending on border patrol agents, immigration judges, aerial surveillance and new detention facilities. Nearly half of the money would be used to improve care for the children while they are moved through the deportation process," The Times reported.

The president has also asked Congress to change immigration laws "to to give the administration the ability to deport unaccompanied children more quickly. Under his proposal, these children would be screened to see if they qualify to stay and, if not, sent back home without having their cases processed through the immigration courts," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"If they qualify to stay" means that some children can be granted asylum of some kind. Under the current system, children from Mexico or Canada can stay if their home situation merits refugee status in the United States. But Obama is asking for that to extend to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where most of the unaccompanied children have fled from, Slate reported.

"Put another way, these children don’t meet the technical definition of refugees under U.S. law because they are already on American soil when they’re applying for asylum, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a legal claim to refuge," Slate's Josh Voorhees writes.

But much of what is being discussed fixes the problem short-term, not long-term. The L.A. Times opined this week, "As the United Nations high commissioner for refugees has argued, this is a regional crisis that demands regional solutions — not just more guards at the border or more lawyers in the immigration courts. The United States should be involved in those solutions because it is more than just a wealthy country that attracts illegal immigrants; it bears some responsibility of its own for the violence and instability in Central America.

"Washington can, and should, try to stop illegal immigration at the border, but it would be wiser, and more humane, to find ways to stabilize the communities from which immigrants are running. Any solutions must come with the full involvement and engagement of the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, a challenge given the endemic corruption in those governments. But the U.S. is in the best position to bring the players together and forge the strategic, regional approach to ending this humanitarian crisis," according to the L.A Times writer.

amcdonald@deseretnews.com

Twitter | @amymcdonald89

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