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Border kids

Tale of Two Borders: Undocumented children swarm southern U.S.

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By: Joe Conger, KABB/WOAI Staff

SAN ANTONIO - When it comes to North vs. South, there's no contest: Thousands of undocumented children cross the southern border every year. But on the northern border to Canada, only dozens of undocumented children are entering the country.

According to Border Patrol numbers, 41,456 unaccompanied immigrant children were detained from October 2016 to September 2017. Out of those, 99.7 percent of the children crossed the southern border. The northern border with Canada and coastal border states only saw a total of 111 detained children.

For those children who arrive with their parents, current law allows them to be separated from their families at detainment centers across the country. In McAllen, Texas, the U.S. Border Patrol allowed the media inside one of the facilities used to hold families being detained. Inside, more than 1,100 people were held in the facility, which was divided into separate areas for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children. The Associated Press reports unaccompanied children were held in cages, with some containing up to 20 children.

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday, blaming Democrats for family separations at the border. Most recently, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a news conference that the agency will not apologize for the Trump administration's immigration practices.

Once in Border Patrol custody, the children can be released to a sponsor, who is typically a family member that lives in the United States. The children cannot be deported right away -- a policy that dates back to the Obama administration. Los Angeles County in California and Harris County in Houston, Texas have the highest number of undocumented children released to sponsors, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Since 2010, the number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the southern border has far exceeded the number crossing the northern and coastal borders. However, the percentage of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the southern border during the 2017 fiscal year is down 31 percent from the 2016 fiscal year.

Seven out of 10 unaccompanied immigrant children detained by U.S. Border Patrols in the 2017 fiscal year were 15 years old or older, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Despite crossing the Mexican border, less than 3 percent of detained children were actually from Mexico. About 45 percent of the children are from Guatemala. Other significant countries of origin included El Salvador and Honduras.

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