SAN DIEGO — About 700 unaccompanied minors mostly from Central America were sleeping on plastic boards at a Border Patrol warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, this weekend, the vast majority flown from South Texas. It is the latest illustration of how a wave of immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala has overwhelmed U.S. border authorities. President Barack Obama called the surge a crisis last week and appointed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to lead the government’s response. Here are some questions and answers.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM?
Illegal border crossings soared for several years in South Texas, which recently surpassed Arizona as the busiest corridor. The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector made 148,017 arrests from Oct. 1 to May 17, far higher than the 62,876 caught in Tucson, Arizona, which is the second-busiest crossing point.
The dramatic shift is taxing U.S. authorities because Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans make up about 75 percent of those caught in South Texas, the traditional entry point for Central Americans. For decades, the vast majority of people who crossed the border illegally were from neighboring Mexico and could be deported the same day on a short bus ride to the nearest crossing. Central Americans are sent home on U.S. government flights, a more daunting challenge.
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