It's been a few months since Clay Jenkins ceremoniously announced that, because rates of unaccompanied immigrant children coming into Texas had ebbed, there was no longer a need for a local shelter. Has the influx remained low?
Experts agree that the flow of immigrants seems to slow when the weather is either too hot or too cold to make the already dangerous crossland trip. Which is why, if rates were lower in the middle of August, we can expect them to be low throughout the winter months.
Bill Holston, executive director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, says rates are significantly lower now than they were even in the last few months. "We see fewer kids just showing up at our office than we did, say, 45 days ago," he says. "But we still have a steady stream of kids. With the accelerated nature of the court dockets, they've gone through a bunch of kids already."
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Several factors are playing into the decrease in numbers. "It's not that things are better in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Things are just as violent there as ever," Holston says. "There is a downtick in the summer when its incredibly difficult to cross the desert. And there is an increase in information to these countries, that you can't just come here and stay, you will be deported. And I understand that Mexico is sending more kids back."
Which means that if fewer kids are making their way to the United States border, more are remaining in dangerous conditions in Central America. And many are still being deported from the United States when they appear in court without legal representation.
"There are still children that are showing up in court without lawyers. You go down to the kids' docket, and those courtrooms are full of kids," Holston says. "The number of children crossing the border has gone way down, and so the number of kids being released from the shelter has gone now. But more than 1,000 children are in proceedings with immigration here. So there's still a steady stream of kids showing up."
It remains to be seen whether or not the downward trend will continue. "I think the border crossings continue to be way down," Holston says. "But I've heard that they are prep for the possibility of another surge, another uptick of kids in the spring. So I guess we'll all just have to wait and see."