FILE – In this June 17, 2018 file photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who’ve been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP, File)
More than 500 unaccompanied immigrant children have been placed in Alabama this fiscal year, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. More than a quarter of the children have been placed in two Alabama counties: Jefferson and Marshall.
The figures show 529 children have been placed in Alabama since Oct. 1, 2018. Seventy-one of the children were placed in Jefferson County; 65 in Marshall County. The remainder were placed in smaller numbers in Alabama’s other 65 counties.
The number of unaccompanied minors placed has varied each year, from a high of 870 in fiscal year 2016 to a low of 598 in fiscal 2017. Nationally, the numbers have ranged from a high of 53,515 in fiscal 2014 to a low of 27,840 in fiscal 2015.
DHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement tracks the number of immigrant children who arrive illegally in the U.S. without a parent or a guardian. Twenty-seven percent of those children are younger than 14; the remainder are ages 15, 16 or 17. More than half of unaccompanied immigrant children are from Guatemala, with another 26 percent from Honduras. The remainder are from El Salvador (12 percent), Mexico (3 percent) or other counties.
Typically, the children are held in DHS facilities until sponsors – typically family members – can be located. DHS is required to provide food, shelter and care to the children in the facilities. DHS is also charged with conducting extensive background screenings of adults taking care of the children, something advocates said could make it more difficult to place the children with family members, some of whom may also be undocumented.