What Unaccompanied Minors Mean for Immigration Reform

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A child on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence looks into Arizona during a special 'Mass on the Border' on April 1, 2014 in Nogales, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty Images/Getty)

Children from Central America are crossing the US-Mexico border by themselves. Bob Ortega, senior reporter for The Arizona Republic, talks about his reporting from both sides of the border on why the kids say they want to come to the US, and the message in their home countries about the dangerous journey.


Bob Ortega

Comments [52]


Say, that reminds me of another peculiar aspect of the immigration "debate. Why is that when an undocumented alien undercuts the minimum wage and labor laws to take a native born person's job the native born person is just a lazy good for nothing bum who deserves to be impoverished but if the capitalist instead uproots the factory and relocates it in China or India the same people will hue and cry all day for poor worker who lost his job? Like they say on NPR...please explain.

Jun. 26 2014 09:15 PM

I was using it somewhat ironically. "check your privilege" is basically used in class conflicts between whites. The rich whites tell the poor whites to check their privilege because although they are destitute and jobless they are after all white and possibly straight as well so therefor need to "check it". In white leftist logic a gay billionaire is more oppressed than an unemployed straight guy who had his job taken by a...uh, I mean outsourced. Since the rich whites were only thinking of their ancestors coming into America via Ellis Island and not thinking about the Chinese banned from entering California I think telling them to CYP is fair play.

Jun. 26 2014 09:10 PM
Jefferson Thomas from New York, NY

Can we dispense with this submoronic "check your privilege" drivel? What an annoying fad, I've checked my privilege. Other than LEGITIMATE US CITIZENSHIP, I don't have any privilege.

Jun. 26 2014 07:24 PM
039 from US


Why are these children any different from the trains full of Jewish children who were sent out of Germany to escape murder at home during WW2?

What makes America and all the people who accuse them of being only after a "free pass" any different from the collaborators who would not let Jews into their country?"

Laura from Manhattan, you are being hyperbolic in a way that is both intellectually dishonest and disrespectful to those Jewish victims/survivors.

Jun. 26 2014 07:07 PM
Rafael from America

Third world birth control funding was axed during the Bush administration. Fifteen years later the USA is reaping the consequences of those actions. Why do you all complain? Legalize and tax drugs in the USA and children will cease to flee for their lives from their Latin American native lands. American drug use is the cause of narco gang violence south of the border.

Jun. 26 2014 05:37 PM

Oh yeah, for everyone getting all nostalgic about Ellis Island, you seem to have forgotten about the Chinese Exclusion Act which was law for the entire Ellis Island period. If it wasn't for that literally racist law California would be Chinese majority by now. How would all you Latino lovers feel about that? What's the matter? Can't boss around a Chinese as easily as a Mexican servant? Check your damn privilege.

Jun. 26 2014 04:41 PM
Mark from

To all the people trotting out the WW2 analogies just curious how many Palestinians you support Israel taking in? Do you suppose if some Palestinians dropped off a bunch of orphans with no documentation on the Israeli border wall they should be taken in? How many would be turned away? How many would die?

And to all the people talking about Ellis Island, there was no social safety net at that time, our currency was on the gold standard and the federal reserve didn't exit. If you think 1890s immigration policy makes sense then it naturally follows that we should do as Ron Paul says and bring back the other policies of the 1890s? Should we roll back civil rights for Americans? Or you only get misty for certain antique policies and not others?

Jun. 26 2014 04:12 PM
Kim from New Jersey

Don't you wonder if they will bring their violence with them??? Allot of these children are 15 and 16 year old boys. They are probably already affiliated with MS13.

Jun. 26 2014 01:26 PM
Steven from Brooklyn

Emma Lazarus

(civil and brief)

Jun. 26 2014 12:18 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Carl, Emma Goldman wrote "The New Coloassus" in 1883. In 1883 the population of the US was about 50 million.

Today the US population is about 310 million.

The US economy is no longer dependent on manual labor, requiring a large pool of manual laborers.

Ask yourself what can you do to help the countries from which the illegal aliens come from.

Jun. 26 2014 10:59 AM
Philip from Brooklyn

As I sat there listening to the show I became increasingly frustrated. Why? Because why is it or should it be "our problem" to care more for others people's children than they do? The reality of life in the 21st century, boarders included, is not the same as it once was. The system is now overburdened. It was not designed to handle this kind of volume. Besides, who will pay for all these bastards? That's right, we will, the taxpayer. We don't need them here. Send them back.

Jun. 26 2014 10:51 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

RUCB_Alum said:

> Most overstayed visas are south Asians and eastern Europeans.


Jun. 26 2014 10:51 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Carl, Are these "unaccompanied minors" from Latin America being targeted for death by fascist socialists due to their ethnicity or religion?

Your comparison is foolish.

Jun. 26 2014 10:47 AM

Enough with the statue of liberty. We live in a society with social safety nets. This of course is a good thing. However, mass immigration now has enormous costs it didn't have a hundred plus years ago. This is something people people love to overlook. 1 child can cost in excess of 20 thousand dollars every year just to educate (far more if they have special needs), let alone feed, house, provide medical coverage, etc. These are real costs, that come out of other priorities. If you have any shred of logic you must realize there are limits. Particularity when you are the largest debtor country in the world living off the fat of past generations as you sell out present ones.

Jun. 26 2014 10:40 AM

@John from Office

Balderdash! Illegal immigrants from any other country (usu. an overstayed visa rather than illegal entry) should get the same treatment...A hearing before an administrative judge where your claim of refugee status can be fairly assessed. Deportation should swiftly follow if the refugee claim cannot be proven. I don't care what your continent of origin is. Most overstayed visas are south Asians and eastern Europeans.

Jun. 26 2014 10:37 AM
Geraldine from Westchester

I'm half Guatemalan by heritage. I remember visiting my grandmother in Guatemala City as a child and learning that "not everyone" lives the way we live in the US. I also remember "guerillas" with machine guns getting on the bus and looking at my white family. We never had any problems.

A huge part of the current problem is that the overwhelming poverty of the country hasn't been addressed. There are a handful of very very rich people, as very small middle class, and so many poor. With no government behind them for health care, limited free education, or any rights for widows/orphans/children.

The US should care greatly that any neighboring counties are so poor; we are probably only just beginning to see the violence that erupts from overwhelming poverty and drugs. The illegal immigrants have nothing to lose because their lives are so dismal where they are. The kids in gangs have no education, they don't "know" any thing else but violence and the immediate power of using guns.

So if any one really cares, stop using drugs. Stop buying drugs. And let's invest in education and healthcare in our neighboring Latin American countries.

Jun. 26 2014 10:36 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I hope the web moderators will delete duplicate posts.

Jun. 26 2014 10:36 AM

The more I hear about immigration reform--or non-reform--the more I think of the situation here in 1942. By that year, Jan Karski had secretly visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Warsaw Ghetto on behalf of the Polish Home Army (Armija Krajowska--see his poignant "Story of a Secret State") and reported on what he saw to both the Polish Government-in-Exile in London and the Roosevelt Administration. The story was printed in the New York Times, but buried on the inner pages. But it wasn't until 1943 that we allowed in Jewish refugees from Europe, provided they could reach these shores! And they were kept in a camp in upstate New York, bound by barbed wire. NOT an extermination or concentration camp, but a camp nonetheless, although they were allowed out to work and received adequate food and clothing.

Emma Goldman's words on the base of the Statue of Liberty seem to ring hollow.

Jun. 26 2014 10:35 AM

We chose to have 1 child because we could only afford to feed, clothe and support one child. Who will be paying to feed, clothe and educate these children. We Americans can't afford to support our own families while supporting an influx of hundreds of thousands. What school districts can afford the expense that comes with educating this large influx of children, who I am guessing, have limited English skills and or high academic needs?.

Jun. 26 2014 10:34 AM
Dave From NorthEast Bronx

Even if the U.S. disengage economically from these Lain American countries completely, they will still be a basket case 20 years from now. The ecomonic woes of Latin America lies in its colonial past. Take a look at the economic structure Spain set up in the 1500s and you can see the results today. These are the descendants of the landless peons.

Jun. 26 2014 10:34 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Thought the mayor was speaking. Sounds like him.

Jun. 26 2014 10:33 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

How about bringing manufacturing jobs exported to Mexico BACK to the US?

And enforce the borders - which will benefit both the US and Mexico - but hurt the fascist Mexican drug gangs/cartels.

Jun. 26 2014 10:32 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Lenni Benson - does "ambulance chaser" ring a bell with you?

Jun. 26 2014 10:30 AM

Gun control laws: 1881 , 1940, 1964
Guatamala 1964-81 killed 100,000 Myan Indians
There is a relationship between gun control and genocide.

Jun. 26 2014 10:29 AM
Mei-Yu from Queens

Yes, of course it is always our fault the world is a mess when you listen to these people. Unbelievable. It's not the people committing the crime or the countries turning a blind eye, it is somehow the fault of the US... Guess now we have reached no personal responsibility on a global scale.

Jun. 26 2014 10:28 AM

The gang situation in Mexico is a direct result of exploitative NAFTA policies. If you want to look to the real culprits look to the companies you buy your flowers and fruit, your soft drinks etc etc etc. Their killing of union organizers and social justice workers as well as journalists using these gangs, all with the US govt giving a tacit nod of approval is the core of this situation.

There seems to be a news blackout (including WNYC) about the TPP and the TTIP, which have been described as NAFTA on steroids. These will destroy our economic and social autonomy, as our legal protections will become meaningless. Expect the US to be the next Mexico. Obama is hellbent on sneaking this disgusting legislation through and selling out our country to corporate interests who have no patriotism or even a concept of national interest. In 15 years, expect to see people in Maine, Illinois and Michigan sending their kids over the border to Canada. I wish I was joking.

Jun. 26 2014 10:28 AM
Lenni Benson from New York

Today with two other experts, I am speaking about how attorneys can train to represent migrant children. The program is hosted for free by Go to the website and register for today's (June 26) one hour briefing.
We will cover the forms of immigration relief these children may qualify for.
There are children waiting for pro bono counsel as no federal funded counsel are provided in deportation proceedings.

Jun. 26 2014 10:27 AM
BK from Hoboken

Also, I, like many typical WNYC listeners, am a self identified liberal. Take a look at the comments page here to get an idea that even liberal WNyC listeners see this as a slippery slope problem. Where does it stop? Importing kids from failing countries is not an answer.

Jun. 26 2014 10:26 AM
john from office

Wow, certain people that post here all the time, always crying for the underdog, are sure being callous. Lets say they were negro children from africa or Haiti, I suspect some people on this board would be advocating for the "underdog".

Jun. 26 2014 10:25 AM
Mei-Yu from Queens

How do we process these people with no documentation or histories? Just take their word? Hope for the best? Let them go and expect them to show up in court? I can't even get into Canada without documentation. This is crazy.

Jun. 26 2014 10:25 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Laura, are you saying that Mexico is run by national SOCIALISTS who are ruthlessly targeting a specific ethnic/religious group for extermination?

Jun. 26 2014 10:25 AM

The rate of registered guns per 100 people in El Salvador is 2.515
So most law-abiding people are not allowed to be armed.
Victim disarmament has its usual effect of creating more violence.

Jun. 26 2014 10:24 AM
BK from Hoboken

So countries with failing governments across the world can all just export their children to us? This is not an answer. These countries need to address their own problems and not export their internal security issues and ramifications to us. I am sorry that a child died after being deported, but this is a bad trend and slippery slope to start down.

Jun. 26 2014 10:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

How are the gangs tracking families who go to other parts of their own country to try to escape? Do they have some kind of cooperation from gov't. authorities there? Or advanced technological resources?

Jun. 26 2014 10:22 AM

Why would people be having children in such an environment, with no thought on how to take care of them. Many even here don't have or delay children here thinking about how they will be cared for. Then these same parents send them unaccompanied out of the country? WTF? Then we are expected to take the problems over? when we have record people on public assistance here? when we have record amounts of unskilled labor of our own? When we have wage pressure on the lowest on the ladder here? It may be callous, but I don't think so. There are billions around the world who would love to come in, does your heart bleed for just a few thousand? When does it end?

Jun. 26 2014 10:22 AM

Guatemala is a gun-free zone for law-abiding citizens.
So only people willing to break laws are armed.
Victim disarmament has its usual effect of creating more violence.

Jun. 26 2014 10:18 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

When the US tries to send the tens of thousands of "unaccompanied minors" back to Mexico, will Mexico only then enforce their borders?

Is Mexico selectively enforcing its borders?

Jun. 26 2014 10:16 AM
Laura from Manhattan

Why are these children any different from the trains full of Jewish children who were sent out of Germany to escape murder at home during WW2?

What makes America and all the people who accuse them of being only after a "free pass" any different from the collaborators who would not let Jews into their country?

Jun. 26 2014 10:16 AM
Maggie from Brooklyn

Even if they got asylum, where would they live? Who would adopt them?

Jun. 26 2014 10:16 AM
pliny from soho

don't these gangs, like MS, exist here too
whats to prevent the new immigrants from
becoming members?

Jun. 26 2014 10:15 AM
The Truth from Becky

@JAIME - So should the US become the " the most dangerous place in the world with the highest assault, rape and murder rates in the world. More than the middle east, more than anywhere in asia, More than the Baltic states." instead?

I am sorry to hear that these things are happening in their countries BUT swinging open the door to resources here is not the answer.

Jun. 26 2014 10:15 AM
Joyce from NYC

I don't understand the problem. These countries can avoid joining the Enlightenment, and as they fail, their citizens can just come here. Problem solved.

Jun. 26 2014 10:14 AM


More accurately re-framed as a response to lies being told about O's executive orders...

The same or similar lie, "If you make it across the border they have to let you stay." has been told to Mexicans and Central Americans for years. The most effective rebuttal for this lie is to send these people back where they came from ASAP. However, the Congress is loathe to spend the money to get these folks their due process and sent back home.

Jun. 26 2014 10:14 AM
Donna from Albany

I lived in Mexico and many of the gangs that were started in my area were started by people who had been deported from the US. There was a gang bar in my small fishing village, that was started by guys deported from LA jails.

Jun. 26 2014 10:14 AM
Jerry from NYC

why don't they stay in Mexico? why not asylum in Mexico?

Jun. 26 2014 10:13 AM
Jaime from ellenville NY

When did we become such a callous society? The economist reported in April 2014, that Central America is the most dangerous place in the world with the highest assault, rape and murder rates in the world. More than the middle east, more than anywhere in asia, More than the Baltic states. And, if you think this is not due to our economic and foreign policy, your lying to yourself. Or if a republican in Washington, the whole nation

Jun. 26 2014 10:11 AM
The Truth from Becky

How is this even possible? Why are we making it a US problem and NOT a Mexican gov't problem?

Jun. 26 2014 10:09 AM
The Truth from Becky

How is this even possible? Why are we making it a US problem and a Mexican gov't problem?

Jun. 26 2014 10:08 AM
Dave From NorthEast Bronx

I say supsend U.S. aide (military, humanitarian, etc) to these countries, especially Mexico, and I bet you will see immediately step up in law enforcement along their borders.

Jun. 26 2014 10:05 AM

Time to open "The Camp of the Saints".

Jun. 26 2014 10:04 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Mexico is a failed country - an anarchists paradise with drug cartels running the show.

Even the Castro dictatorship enforces its borders - so why doesn't the US secure its borders too?

Jun. 26 2014 10:02 AM
Jerry from NYC

a response to O's executive orders, jump over the fence and the taxpayers are responsible for your well being

Jun. 26 2014 10:02 AM

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