There is a humanitarian crisis brewing along the borders of the United States. Children fleeing the chaos and violence of Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are journeying thousands of danger-filled miles to throw themselves at the mercy of U.S. customs officials, seeking asylum and refuge. The influx is straining an already threadbare, porous border to its breaking point, prompting cries of alarm and outrage from residents of border states. Demands for quick and resolute action are besieging President Obama’s Administration, which has asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion in funds earmarked for a solution to the burgeoning crisis.


According to a report by “Mother Jones,” the number of undocumented children seized at border crossings has more than doubled in the past two years and shows no signs of slowing down. Children are leaving their violence-ridden homelands at astonishing rates, either voluntarily or at the behest of their parents, who will their children to hazard the journey for the merest sliver of a chance at a better existence. Unstable Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, El Salvador the second-highest. Guatemala is seeing poverty rates skyrocket as food prices soar. The journeys of these migrants speak to the desperation infiltrating the region.


Their arrival at the U.S. border is creating a headache for the country’s political leaders. The Border Patrol is simply not equipped to deal with the influx – they picked up nearly 40,000 unaccompanied minors in 2013 alone – and child illegals are often left languishing in maxed-out relief facilities unable to provide adequate resources and proper living conditions. The surge is costing the government money and rapidly becoming an embarrassment for the Obama Administration.


President Obama has styled himself a champion of immigration reform, but his efforts to push comprehensive legislation have stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. On the issue of migrant children, the Administration’s policy has theoretically favored rapid deportation to their home countries. This has angered human rights workers and immigrant advocates, who claim that the children are fleeing an untenable situation. To return them to that situation would be the height of folly.


A 2008 legal statute allows illegal immigrants from non-bordering countries to stay in the United States under certain conditions. The law was enacted to combat rampant sex trafficking in Central America, but it is now proving to be something of a thorn in the side for legislators seeking to stem the incoming tide. To make matters worse, migrant children face technical challenges if they apply for asylum as refugees.


The crisis at the border is a complex issue, and no easy solution is on the horizon. The politicization of the crisis is adding to the noise, portraying a fractious government divided against itself and unable to chart a clear path for the children and the country. In such a tenuous situation, the rights and well-being of the children in U.S. government custody should be of paramount concern. Whether or not they are eventually granted asylum, they are our responsibility. Our leaders would do well to focus on alleviating the humanitarian toll rather than picking fights on morning talk shows.


What are your thoughts on the surge of migrant youth? Should it be the responsibility of the United States to provide for them, or to send them back home? Let’s talk here, or find me on Twitter @aa_murph