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U.S.: Central American migration infographic
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Central American migration

Graphic News

June 26, 2018 -- Customs and Border Protection apprehended 32,372 unaccompanied children and 59,113 family units at the U.S. southwestern border between October 1, 2017, and May 31, 2018.

On April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the implementation of President Donald Trump’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy for migrants caught crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. That policy resulted in more than 2,342 children being separated from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico in just five weeks, leading to a firestorm of condemnation.

Trump has portrayed the policy as a harsh but necessary measure to stop a wave of migrants “bringing death and destruction” to the U.S. In a Twitter tirade Trump likened migrants to gang members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) who want to “infest our country”.

According to Stephanie Leutert, Director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin, the number of gang members crossing from Central America is minimal. In FY2017, which runs from October 1, the Border Patrol detected just 0.075 percent of the total number of migrants (228 MS-13 members out of 303,916 total migrants). When combined with MS-13’s rival, the Barrio 18 gang, the figure rises only slightly to 0.095 percent. This is far from the “infestation” of violent gang members described by the president.

Trump caved to political pressure on June 20 when he signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together for an indefinite period.

However, Trump’s order is likely to be blocked by the Flores settlement. In 1997 Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles prohibited immigration authorities from keeping children in detention, even if they are with their parents, for more than 20 days.

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