Report: Laws to Protect Unaccompanied Minors Lead to Illegal Immigration, Gang Violence

Nine in 10 MS-13 gang members taken into custody were illegal aliens

Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility / AP

Laws meant to protect unaccompanied minors who arrive in the United States lead to more illegal immigration and gang violence, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Protection Act of 2008 attempts to protect immigrant children from exploitation by calling for the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to place these children in a setting that is in their best physical and emotional interest.

"The implementation of the law in place to protect unaccompanied minors coming to the United States, especially from Central America, from abuse and human trafficking has created problems for the children and for the communities in which they are placed," the report said.

"The unaccompanied alien children are often placed with sponsors who are in the United States illegally, with virtually no post-placement oversight by the federal government, exposing both the children and communities to increasingly profound waves of gang violence while perpetuating the illegal immigrant population."

Children are placed with sponsors in the country illegally because of a loophole in the law, which only refers to checking the immigration status of the sponsor—but knowledge that a potential sponsor is illegal does not disqualify them.

The report found that from February 2014 through September 2015 there were 56,000 unaccompanied alien children, or more than 80 percent, were placed with sponsors who are in the United States illegally, and 700 were placed with those in deportation proceedings.

The report also found there is very little follow-up after a child is placed with a sponsor. The Office of Refugee Resettlement calls a home after 30 days of placement—and in the first quarter of 2016 only 56 percent of children and 88 percent of sponsors participated in the follow-up calls, while the rest declined.

"The current policy exploits a humanitarian law to manufacture additional reasons for illegal immigrants to remain in the country instead of being returned home," the report stated. "And it creates a huge demand for more minors to flood across the U.S. border to take advantage of it."

Additionally, many children are being placed in areas in Texas, Maryland, Virginia and New York with sponsors who are lightly vetted and end up being vulnerable to MS-13, a transnational criminal organization that was formed by illegal aliens from El Salvador. Since 2011, U.S. the Border Patrol has encountered increasing number of members of this gang each year.

"Not only is the Office of Refugee Resettlement violating U.S. immigration policy by knowingly placing these children with people in the country illegally themselves; they're ostensibly placing them with sponsors who are already members of MS-13," said Joseph Kolb, a research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the center, said that the MS-13 gang is responsible for about 35 percent of the murderers who were arrested from 2005 through 2014.

"MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles by Salvadoran thugs and former paramilitary types, who arrived in California in the 1990s illegally and began making a living and quite a profit selling weapons in Los Angeles," Vaughan said. "About 92 percent of the MS-13 members that ICE arrested were here illegally."

"While MS-13 arrests represented only about 13 percent of all of the ICE arrests over this decade, they were responsible for about 35 percent of the murderers that were arrested, which just shows you that they are disproportionally violent than some of the other street gangs that law enforcement has been dealing with," she said.

The Office of Refugee and Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment by press time.