Based on this fiscal year's eight-and-a-half months of activity so far, the number of unaccompanied alien children from Honduras apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol will increase 22 times from what it was in 2009.
That's a jump from fewer than 1,000 children five years ago to more than 21,000 this year. Similar increases are predicted for unaccompanied alien children from Guatemala -- from 1,115 in 2009 to a projected 17,887 -- and a 13-fold increase in UACs from El Salvador, from 1,221 to a projected total of 16,145.
In 2012, when immigration was a key issue during the presidential election, the Border Patrol recorded 24,481 apprehensions of UACs. The year before, (ending September 2011), there were 16,067. Since 2012, the numbers have grown dramatically. In 2013, the total was 38,833, and this year's figure is expected to reach 90,000.
Before 2012, children from Mexico made up more than 75 percent of UACs. Now, according to the Migration Policy Institute, Hondurans make up the highest percentage of children (28 percent), followed by Mexicans (25 percent), Guatemalans (24 percent), and Salvadorans (21 percent).
This seismic shift in children seeking to enter the United States is due to several factors: a change in immigration policy; an increase in violence in their home countries; an increase in smuggling activity; continued poverty in their countries of origin.
The numerous causes make finding a simple solution impossible. There will have to be changes made on many fronts to create a solution.
Comprehensive immigration reform has been talked about for years and was attempted -- unsuccessfully -- by President Reagan. But the issue is so challenging that moving one step at a time might be more successful than attempting to do everything at once.
The first step that is on every Republican's mind is to secure the border. A vast majority of the unaccompanied alien children apprehended this fiscal year were apprehended in the Rio Grande Sector, one of nine sectors along the border. While additional measures can and should be put into place (i.e., more border patrols), beefing up the deterrent at the border would not solve the problem. But it would be an important starting point and the first one that should be put into action.
President Obama does not agree. His request this week for $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to handle the influx does not incorporate additional border security. The concern is that additional humanitarian aid, without any change along the border itself, would simply perpetuate the problem.