U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are trying to recruit Border Patrol agents with expertise in child care to volunteer for 30-day assignments at the Nogales, Ariz., border center to help manage the flood of unaccompanied children who have crossed illegally into the U.S.
A June 6 internal memo obtained by TheBlaze says the Nogales center is being mobilized to alleviate pressure on the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, which has taken the brunt of the thousands of unaccompanied children crossing. The wave of children has been labeled a federal emergency crisis and has put significant pressure on housing and processing capabilities, the memo said.
“The primary demographic of the individuals being housed at the [Nogales processing center] are females and [unaccompanied alien children],” the memo said. “Therefore, agents that are best equipped to interact with the above demographic are being requested. Additionally, agents with experience in emergency medical care and non-emergency health care, child care, or juvenile teaching and/or counseling are encouraged to apply.”
Most of the children coming in are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It’s not known for certain what is driving the wave, but Obama administration opponents point to the White House’s positions on immigration reform, saying they are inspiring hope of obtaining amnesty in the U.S. Many of the children are searching for parents who have left them behind to work illegally in the United States, while others are fleeing growing gang violence and crime in their home countries.
Border Patrol agents who volunteer will be tasked with processing, feeding, monitoring, interacting with, and providing security for the children until they are placed in the care of social services, the memo said.
More than 60,000 children are expected to cross into the United States in 2014, according to Border Patrol officials. Between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 2013, only 4,474 children apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley were accompanied by adults, compared to more than 21,000 children who crossed unaccompanied, according to internal Border Patrol figures obtained by TheBlaze. There were 128,426 adults apprehended in that same sector during the same time period, straining law enforcement resources.
Border Patrol agents are not trained in child-rearing, nor do they specialize in social services, said Derek Hernandez, vice president of the western region for the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union representing Border Patrol agents.
“We’ve been getting reports that other Border Patrol stations are also receiving similar requests and they’re asking for people who have medical skills and mainly females with child care skills,” Hernandez told TheBlaze. “That’s not our primary role — our role is to enforce immigration and protect the border. There are other agencies, specifically nonprofits that would love to help out and frankly would be more capable of helping the children.”
A Border Patrol agent who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said cell doors are being left open and unsecured at the various Border Patrol facilities housing the flood of undocumented migrants. The agent also said children’s toys have been scattered throughout the facility and that because of overcrowding, “people are being put in non-secured areas that were never designed for holding detainees.”
Follow Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) on Twitter