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Experts: U.S-Mexico Border To See 39,000 Unaccompanied Minors

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Associated Press / Eduardo Verdugo

In this July 12, 2014, photo, Central American migrants climb on a north bound train during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border, in Ixtepec, Mexico.

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It's been nearly a year since the United States saw a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children and young families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. They surrendered to the Border Patrol by the dozens, sometimes by the hundreds. Most had come from Central America and made a long and dangerous journey through Mexico to reach the U.S.

U.S Customs and Border Protection says it apprehended about 68,000 unaccompanied children in fiscal 2014, and the Migration Policy Institute estimates those numbers will drop to 39,000 this year.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a former Fulbright scholar in El Salvador from San Diego State University, interviewed about 700 of the minors who fled their countries. In analyzing 300 of those interviews, she learned most came to the U.S. for safety reasons why others wanted to reunite with their family members.

“Nearly 60 percent of them were fleeing because they feared for their lives,” Kennedy told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “They went to bed not knowing if they’d wake up.”

San Diego immigration attorney Lilia Velasquez, who has practiced for 33 years, said few of the children would qualify for asylum.

“But what’s important is that they need their day in court,” said Velasquez noting that some children are waiting years to get a hearing. “We need to provide them with due process.”

Experts: U.S-Mexico Border To See 39,000 Unaccompanied Minors

The number is a decrease compared to last year when U.S Customs and Border Protection says it apprehended about 68,000 unaccompanied children.

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