LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Obama administration is under fire after announcing plans to increase deportations of those caught crossing into the U.S. illegally.
The new crackdown comes as immigration detention facilities are grappling with an increasing number of children coming in from Mexico unaccompanied.
It’s the latest chapter in a bitter debate over immigration reform and border security.
The White House said Friday it will bring in more immigration officers and judges on an emergency basis to speed up the deportation process for those ineligible for asylum, along with expanding existing detention facilities.
“Showing up at the border illegally is not a ticket into this country,” said Josh Earnest, principal deputy White House press secretary.
The numbers are staggering, especially among children, who are crossing the border without their parents.
In the 2013 fiscal year, there were just under 25,000 lone children being detained for crossing without documents.
In the current fiscal year, which still is a few days from reaching completion, that number has jumped to 50,000.
Some law enforcement agencies along the border say they’re struggling to keep up.
“The local sheriffs within our region are so maxed out in our efforts that we’re not going to be able to sustain this much longer,” said Sheriff Michael O’Connor, of Victoria County, Texas.
LA resident Jennifer Soto, 24, says she crossed the border by herself when she was 13 years old to flee gang violence in Central America.
“I had to leave, because I was kidnapped by the gangs in Honduras, Las Mas Muertes, and I was forced to leave my mom and my brothers behind,” Soto said.
Critics say they blame the Obama administration’s failed border security and immigration policies for the mess.
“This is a self-induced crisis: the people who are coming are responding to the very, very clear signals that this administration has been sending. They have essentially been sending the signal that if you show up with kids, if you’re an unaccompanied minor, we’re going to admit you. You’re going to get to stay,” according to Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
But an LA group that oversees lawyers representing children at detention centers says that’s not what the kids are telling them.
“Not a single child that we’ve interviewed, of almost 1,000 interviews that we’ve done this year, not a single child has mentioned a U.S. immigration policy as and impetus for leaving the country,” said Erika Pinheiro of the Catholic Charities legal office.
Several border state governors, such as Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona, charge the federal government with failing to carry out its border responsibilities.
The U.S. will spend an estimated $93 million to, among other things, help repatriate the undocumented immigrants.