Mexican immigration agents have stopped 9,622 unaccompanied minors this year, a figure equal to the 2013 total, with the total for the full year projected at 16,000, Deputy Government Secretary for Population, Migration and Religious Affairs Mercedes del Carmen Guillen Vicente said.
“As of this time, 44,409 foreigners have been returned, and 9,622 unaccompanied children in this period, while the total in 2013 was 9,724,” Guillen Vicente said.
The federal official said during a conference Tuesday hosted by the Mexican Senate that examined immigration reform efforts in the United States that the rise in the number of unaccompanied minors heading north was caused by a misinterpretation of the U.S. government’s statements about a “temporary normalization” of immigration status.
People traffickers took advantage of the situation, telling parents that by paying thousands of dollars they could ensure that their children had a better life in the United States, Guillen Vicente told lawmakers, activists and academics attending the conference.
Immigration reform is “unquestionably necessary” in the United States and action is needed to find a solution to the problem of child migration, the federal official said.
The situation has reached a critical level in 2014 and become a humanitarian crisis, Sen. Mariana Gomez del Campo, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee’s panel on Latin America and the Caribbean, said.
The number of Central American children heading to the United States began rising in 2011 and has surged this year, with more than 70,000 minors annually “being exposed and vulnerable,” Gomez del Campo, a member of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, said.
Last week, the governments of the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador started a coordinated effort to halt the humanitarian crisis caused by massive arrivals of unaccompanied Central American minors at the southern U.S. border.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina hosted a meeting last Friday to forge a joint strategy that was attended by Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and representatives of Honduras and Mexico.
Perez Molina called on parents not to allow their children and teenagers to run the risks of traveling to the United States unaccompanied.
The Honduran government had already said it would hold an international conference in July to deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by migrant youngsters traveling alone to the United States.
The young migrants are subject to deportation, though each case is reviewed individually, the U.S. government said.