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The Gangs of ORR
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June 01, 2005, 05:00 AM
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Remember how the U.S. responded to 911 by setting up the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? DHS was supposed to defend the homeland and do a better job at securing its borders than the old INS.

But the Homeland Security Act expressly barred the DHS from enforcing immigration law in some cases.

Certain "Unaccompanied Alien Children" (UACs) apprehended trying to enter the country illegally are now the sole responsibility of a federal social services agency, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, has launched its own new agency to deal with UACs, the Division of Unaccompanied Children.

The new bureaucracy has explicitly stated it has no interest in enforcing immigration law and does not even cooperate with the department pledged to perform that function.

Media accounts of "unaccompanied children" caught at the border typically feature doe-eyed 12 year olds crossing the border to flee persecution at home, join up with charmingly delighted parents in the U.S. But, for ORR`s purposes a UAC is any individual who claims to be non-Mexican and claims to be under the age of 18. The agency has stopped using forensic techniques formerly employed to verify claims of an individual`s age and is pushing for a law which gives ORR the exclusive right to verify age for any individual, using as evidence the claimant`s own statements about his age.

In contrast to adult illegal aliens, UACs cannot be subjected to expedited removal. They generally face a lower standard of proof of persecution when making an asylum claim. It is a valuable status. Virtually any minor can be considered "unaccompanied" even when caught together with his family. If, as is common, the youth is held in a detention center separate from his parents, he is deemed "unaccompanied" and thus a temporary ward of the federal government. He then has the right to remain in the country even as the rest of his family is deported.

Mexican minors caught trying to cross the border are usually returned to Mexico as a "voluntary return." This enables them, like the adults, to attempt another border crossing—penalty-free. This cycle of catch, release and try again can go on as long as it takes to break through to the interior. Reportedly, some gang members from Central and South American countries prefer to claim to be from Mexico when caught at the border because of the ease of eventually gaining unrestrained illegal entry.

Treatment of non-Mexican illegal juvenile aliens is different. A smuggler who gets a non-Mexican child across a U.S. border or on an airplane that lands at a U.S. airport can be assured that the child will be handed over to ORR and then delivered by the U.S. government to waiting "sponsors" within America. The "sponsors" are often themselves illegal immigrants.

The immigration status of the sponsors is not questioned. The ORR prefers to release to relatives, but will release to non relatives and, even, according to Border Patrol agents, total strangers to the UAC.

The UAC is given a date for a hearing in immigration court. The vast majority ignore this, joining the ranks of illegal millions.

The objective of the "believe the children" brigade at ORR is to release the children as quickly as possible and, with its goal of no more than a 2-week detention period, it clearly does so without adequately checking the background of the illegal minor or the minor`s sponsor. ORR does not even review databases of criminal background information used by federal immigration enforcement agencies within DHS. Minors have been released to individuals with addresses subsequently found to be non-existent.

Though ORR Care has officially been in effect for just 8 months, there are already reports of the same professional "sponsors" showing up repeatedly to take children off of ORR`s hands. It didn`t take long for the smuggling networks to figure out they have a partner in the U.S. government.

The residential facilities used to house the illegal aliens until a sponsor comes forward are run by ORR`s contractors from the refugee industry such as the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and resemble summer camps. Unlike illegal adults, detained illegal alien minors are provided a range of services including medical and dental care, educational services, recreation and leisure, weekly counseling sessions with a social worker, group counseling sessions, religious services of the minor`s choice, information about free legal assistance, the right to private visitation and contact with family members and the right to private phone calls.

ORR pays its contractors for long-term resident illegal alien youth counseling services—in some cases for years, if the minor is considered particularly dangerous or mentally unstable.

ORR`s new Division of Unaccompanied Children is so tightly woven into the advocacy community that its director, Maureen Dunn, was a keynote speaker at a March 18 AILA convention.

About 8,000 UACs will go through the system this year, but numbers could surge under legislation introduced this year by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Sen. Feinstein was mainly responsible for transferring immigration enforcement for juvenile aliens from DHS to ORR.

The AILA, ORR and the NGO`s involved in refugee services contracting are pushing for a further expansion of rights and entitlements for this new class of immigrants—and employment for themselves.

The Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, sponsored by the familiar business lobby/left wing coalition and promoted by the U.N., would guarantee a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)—at taxpayer expense—to every UAC in the system. The GAL would steer the minor through the immigration process.

Importantly, the bill greatly expands the use of the Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa as a means to permanent residence. According to Sen. Feinstein, the Child Protection Act "Revamps the Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa to make it a useful and flexible means of providing permanent protection for deserving unaccompanied alien children who are deemed a dependent of the State by the courts due to abuse, neglect or abandonment."

How does one disprove the assertion that a child is neglected?

If this law passes there probably is not a minor from south of the border who would not qualify for the privileged immigration pass. UACs could become another means of planting an anchor relative for purposes of family chain migration.

Illegal minors are not necessarily harmless lambs, as the flurry of media reports of Hispanic gang violence testifies.

But, the Administration appears blindly committed to increasing immigration—legal or otherwise—every way it can. From this determination stems impervious support for every program calculated to increase immigration, and a willingness to force Americans to pay any price and assume any risk in the pursuit of its crazy plan.

Thomas Allen (email him) is a recovering refugee worker.