The surge of unaccompanied minors that have immigrated into the United States from Central American countries has been portrayed as one of the greatest humanitarian issues to hit the United States. The influx of these children illegally entering the United States has amounted to more than twice as much as the previous year. However, setting aside the humanitarian issues, such as children being placed in detention camps and the terrible violence in the Central American countries that have forced the children to flee to the United States, there is a bigger issue that should be equally thrust into the spotlight, national security.
The issue of national security is directly linked to the immigration policy concerns that have forever plagued the United States government. Many critics believe that the government’s lax approach to the increase of unaccompanied minors will lead to greater national security dangers. Many of the Obama administration’s policy implementations such as the 2008 Wilberforce Act and the 2012 DACA executive order have been seen as encouraging illegal immigration of children. The 2008 Wilberforce Act treats unaccompanied minors from “noncontiguous countries differently than it does from Canada and Mexico.” Instead of being immediately deported, children from these countries have a legal right to deportation proceedings. This act has been seen by some to not be strict enough and therefore encourage the illegal immigration by children from these countries. The same argument is made about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). A program that permits prosecutorial discretion toward children who arrived in the United States prior to age 15 and who are present illegally.
Some critics of these policy concerns have taken the step further and expressed that such lenient approaches to illegal immigration will lead to greater security concerns such as an increase in drug smuggling through the use the of children or a greater increase in border violence. Criminal smuggling organizations are seeing this as an opportunity to exploit the lenient approach toward children and use it toward their advantage. Critics urge the government to increase security at the United States border and even suggest pulling resources from the agencies that are aiding in the children immigration issue. To them, this heavy influx of unaccompanied minors is seen as a threat to national security mainly because it is taking away from more pressing border control issues. W. Ralph Basham a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner from 2006 to 2009 and now a founding partner of the Command Consulting Group told CBS News, “The challenge for has always been to protect the borders from all threats, which would include terrorists or drugs or illegal trafficking sorts of things,” he said. “I think we’re almost being distracted, somewhat… pulling resources away from these agencies’ traditional mission to focus on these kids coming over the border.”
The major national security issue that is related to the influx of unaccompanied minors is drugs. Many argue that the major drug cartels that are forcing the children to flee their home countries are American based gangs. In the 1980s there was a huge migration of Central Americans into the United States, mostly to the Los Angeles, California area. There, immigrants set up communities and unfortunately their own gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13. Then, when many of them were deported to their home countries they continued their gang activities and seemingly started to control their home countries via the power gained by drug sales. This led to an increase in violence which over the years has led to children being forced to join the gang or be killed; thus, pressuring parents to send their kids to the United States. Now, the threat to national security that the United States faces is that these children will be used as anchors within the border to continue drug smuggling. The United States does not want to encourage illegal immigration by allowing loopholes in the enforcement of deportation and has therefore heavily enforced strict limitations to the bond release of mothers when they illegally arrive with their children, but the issue of unaccompanied minors is one that is unprecedented due to the vast amount and therefore still to be determined.
Border control issues have always been a problem plaguing the United States. However, with the recent and rapid influx of unaccompanied minors from Central American countries, the United States has taken steps that many have critiqued as being too lenient. A stricter approach to anyone crossing the border might be one solution to protect the security concerns of Americans but can the United States really turn a blind eye to the problems of other countries? Until there is a balance between humanitarian and national security approaches, it seems as though the border will remain one of the biggest problems afflicting the United States government.