Eighty percent of the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who came into the U.S. during the height of the border surge in 2014 and 2015 were placed into the custody of illegal aliens already residing here, according to a new report.
Of the 71,000 UACs who came into the U.S. between February 2014 and September 2015, more than half were placed in the custody with their parents, according to data provided to the Associated Press in a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Most others were placed in the care of uncles, aunts and siblings.
Federal law requires federal immigration and border control agencies to turn minors who cross the border alone over to HHS if they come from countries that do not border the U.S. The department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement then works to find a sponsor living inside the U.S. to take care of the UAC until an immigration court hearing.
A vast majority of UACs apprehended at the border come from three Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
According to the AP, six percent of UACs were handed over to adults who had temporary protected status. Four percent were sponsored by U.S. citizens. Another one percent were placed in the custody of immigrants facing deportation proceedings.
The AP also reports:
Immigration status is not a factor in determining whether someone can sponsor a child. But sponsors are asked their status, and those in the country illegally must provide a backup plan to care for the children if they are deported.
After being placed in the custody of HHS, UACs are orders to appear in immigration court. There, they can make a plea for asylum. Many claim that they are fleeing violence in their home countries.
In many cases, UACs fall back into the violent world they seemingly intended to leave behind. A recent report from The Washington Times linked a spike in homicides in Virginia and Maryland to the MS-13 street gang, which originated in El Salvador. MS-13 is reportedly recruiting heavily among young illegal immigrants from Central America.
In another recent case, a 19-year-old Honduran national who was handled as a UAC killed a 21-year-old woman in Omaha in January during a drunken street race. Edwin Mejia entered the U.S. illegally in May 2013. U.S. Border Patrol Agents turned him over to HHS, and the agency placed him in the custody of his brother, who lived in Tennessee. It is unclear if Mejia’s brother was also an illegal alien. Mejia was speed racing with a blood-alcohol level of .241 — three times the legal limit — when he slammed into an SUV being driven by Sarah Root.
Mejia posted bail on Feb. 5 and was released from Omaha jail. Investigators there had asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take Mejia into custody but were denied. Mejia has since gone on the run and was placed on ICE’s “Most Wanted” list.