Undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been coming to the United States in massive numbers over the course of the last year as they seek to reunite with family members and escape from gang violence back home. Around 66,000 families ‒ predominately women and children ‒ have illegally entered the US in the current fiscal year.
In previous times it was primarily adult men who tried to enter the United States undetected, but this time it has been a wave of women and children surrendering themselves to patrol agents on the border and asking for asylum. Rather than disappearing, they live with friends or family members while waiting for their fates to be decided by a federal judge.
“We can track them more closely than prior waves of immigrants because we know who these individuals are,” says Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox. The great majority of the new undocumented immigrants in New Orleans come from Honduras, with the two having shared ties since the late 1800s; more recently, many Hondurans took on building jobs following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then stayed on.
A new wave of such immigrants is now arriving, with almost 1,300 undocumented immigrant minors being released to sponsors in Louisiana between January and the end of July this year, most in New Orleans. Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, has openly criticized the federal government for failing to notify him about the decision to place immigrant minors there.