Jun 19, 2014 12:31 AM by Lupita Murillo and Michel Marizco

U.S., Central American countries, begin reuniting children, parents

NOGALES - Nine hundred children are currently housed in the U.S. Border Patrol's Nogales Processing Center. They're a fraction of the 42,000 unaccompanied Central American immigrant children who were caught along the U.S.-Mexico border this year. The question is beginning to be asked, what will happen with them?

Art del Cueto, president of the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector union, Local 2544, said the unaccompanied minors have both shown up at ports of entry in South Texas and surrendered to Border Patrol agents.

"They're turning themselves in," he said.

He suspects it's an indicator of an organized plan involving bringing the children in.

"Someone paid bribes to Mexican officials. They've turned themselves over to Border Patrol. They're carrying phone numbers to contacts and families here in the U.S.," he said.

But if someone had a plan for bringing these children in, does the Homeland Security Department have a plan for what to do with them?

"No, the U.S. hasn't figured it out," said Tony Coulson, who oversaw the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tucson office until 2010 and now runs a consulting firm that works with federal agencies on drug and social issues.

"We've known about this for a long time," he said. He approached Homeland Security officials in 2011 to warn them the agency was not prepared to accommodate an influx of children expected to surge along the border.

"They had these gaps. They had these huge liabilities and that only more children were going to come across and they were incapable of handling all those children," he said.

But DHS officials seemed to lose interest and stopped contacting him about the problem.
Now, everyone is hearing about the issues facing DHS.

"There is a lot of frustration within CBP, with federal agencies, that no federal policies have emanated from the White House on how we are going to handle these children," Coulson said.

Immigration officials have said children will face deportation proceedings but they'll still be released to parents living here illegally in the meantime. Even former Secretary of State and potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared confused on the matter, telling CNN Wednesday that the juvenile detainees should both be sent home to their native countries and at the same time, reunited with their parents.

"They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns about whether all of them should be sent back," she told CNN.

El Salvador Foreign Minister for Salvadorans Living Abroad Liduvina Magarin said consul officials have already begun contacting families in the U.S.

Magarin added that her country is trying to build up its economy so that illegal migration to the U.S. will slow. But until then, the U.S. will need to prepare thousands of very complicated deportation proceedings involving children in the coming weeks.


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