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Texas Department of Safety Troopers patrolled on the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday in Mission, Texas. Texas is spending $1.3 million a week for a bigger DPS presence along the border. (AP Photo/, Pool)

Eric Gay • Associated Press,

President Obama was flanked by El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, left, Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina, and Honduran President Juan Hernandez, right, after they met to discuss immigration and the border crisis.

Associated Press,

More kids under 12 crossing border alone to immigrate

  • Article by: Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Los Angeles Times
  • July 25, 2014 - 9:24 PM

– Not only have more unaccompanied children illegally crossed the southern border this year — more than twice last year’s total — but they are crossing at much younger ages, according to a study released this week.

There has been a 117 percent increase in apprehensions among unaccompanied children ages 12 and younger and a 12 percent increase among teenagers between the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, according to government statistics obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Pew Research Center. Also, the number of unaccompanied girls who have been caught crossing the border illegally has increased more rapidly this year than the number of boys, Pew research found.

“These under-12-year-old children who are coming across the border unaccompanied, many of them are coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” said one of the authors of the study, Mark Lopez, Pew’s director of Hispanic research. “In the last year, there has been a change in the composition of the unaccompanied minors who are apprehended.”

Although the increase among migrants ages 6 to 12 was significant, they made up only 14 percent of total youths apprehended at the border, according to the Pew report, which provides the first detailed portrait of the age and nationality of child migrants detained.

There are still more 13- to 17-year-olds crossing, 84 percent of youths apprehended. Most are 16- and 17-year-olds, Lopez said.

Presidents meet

Pressing for swift action, President Obama urged Central American presidents and congressional Republicans to help ease the migrant crisis.

He emphasized to the regional leaders that despite U.S. compassion for migrant children, those who do not have a proper claim to remain in the U.S. will be turned back.

“It is my hope that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans will not leave town for the month of August for their vacations without doing something to help solve this problem,” Obama said after meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

With one week left before Congress’ August recess, Republicans on Friday were trying to unite behind a plan that would spend about one-fourth of the amount in Obama’s proposal. The emerging proposal from House Republicans is expected to amount to less than $1 billion, a fraction of Obama’s $3.7 billion request. It will bump against a bigger $2.7 billion package from Senate Democrats. Neither is expected to win support from both chambers.

Obama played down a proposed pilot program that his administration is considering that would give refugee status to young people from Honduras. White House officials said the plan, which could be expanded to Guatemala and El Salvador, would involve screening youths in their home countries to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. Obama said such an effort would affect only a small number of asylum seekers.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said Obama urged the region to work with the U.S. to resolve the immediate crisis and also that it develop a medium- and long-term plan to prevent such a flight of migrants in the future.

“What he asked was that we be prepared to receive the children who are not classified to remain here,” Molina said.

New spending on Rio Grande

Separately, the Homeland Security Department announced Friday it was boosting spending for law enforcement agencies in the Rio Grande Valley. The money would permit local police to support Customs and Border Protection by enhancing security in the region.

Obama’s demand for congressional action came as GOP lawmakers said they were attempting to coalesce behind the narrow package of changes including sending National Guard troops to the border, increasing the number of U.S. immigration judges and changing a law so that migrant youths could be sent home more quickly.

A number of Republicans exiting a special meeting on the issue in the Capitol said they had to act before leaving Washington late next week for their annual August recess.

 

News services contributed to this report.

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