Influx of Central American Teen and Family Arrivals Continues

By Jessica M. Vaughan on March 31, 2015

More than 2,000 illegal alien juveniles have been apprehended and taken into federal custody in each of the last several months, according to DHS statistics. While Obama administration officials emphasize that these numbers are lower than last year, they are still the second highest level ever for arrests of illegal alien minors, about midway between 2013 and 2014 levels. Most of those apprehended are male teenagers, with the largest number from Guatemala. The statistics confirm that Central Americans still see a strong incentive to head to the United States now, and that the drop in apprehensions reported last August and September was temporary.

While taking custody of roughly 2,000 illegal alien juveniles per month since the start of the 2015 fiscal year last October, ICE reports removing well under 200 juveniles per month. The largest number of these (41 percent) were sent home to Mexico.

The majority of illegal alien juveniles taken into ICE custody are ultimately released to family members in the United States, and only a small number are ever repatriated. About 90 percent of the recent Central American arrivals who had hearings scheduled last summer and fall failed to appear at their immigration hearings and have melted into the larger illegal alien population.

The following chart shows trends in the number of illegal alien minors booked into ICE custody after arrest by either the Border Patrol, port inspectors, or ICE agents in the interior.


Graph: Monthly Totals of Illegal Alien Minors Booked into ICE Custody, 2011-2015


According to the DHS statistics, which have not been released to the public, but were obtained by the Center, about 99 percent of all the illegal alien minors taken into ICE custody since the beginning of the fiscal year were apprehended by the Border Patrol.

There were a few young children (including 25 infants under age 1) apprehended, but the vast majority — 84 percent — were between the ages of 13 and 17 when they were booked. Thirty-one percent of the total claimed to be age 17 at the time of booking.

Seventy percent of the minors were males.

ICE has taken custody of illegal alien juveniles from 27 different countries this year. Nearly 90 percent were from four Central American countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in that order); half were from Guatemala alone. The rest were from Armenia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, India, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

The family arrivals continue as well. Last week DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told members of the House appropriations committee that the Border Patrol apprehended 1,622 illegal aliens who arrived as part of a family unit in January and another 2,043 family members in February. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democratic member of the committee from south Texas, where most of these apprehensions have taken place, made a point of expressing his constituents' disapproval of what he referred to as "catch and release" policies that are contributing to the ongoing influx from Central America.