By Thomas Gnau | Staff Writer | Journal-News
As two of southwest Ohio’s most powerful mayors said they would welcome immigrants and refugee children from Central America, recent federal data shows at least 360 unaccompanied immigrant children were already released into the custody of Ohioans so far this year.
It’s not clear where the immigrant children, which were handed over to sponsors between Jan. 1 and July 7 of this year, hail from, according to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. However, it’s likely many of the children brought here were part of the recent refugee wave fleeing Central America for the Mexico-U.S. border in recent months, sparking an immigration crisis in the states.
In all, just over 30,000 unaccompanied children have been released to sponsors across the country since the beginning of this year.
The influx of out-of-country children being detained at the border has had a trickle down here in Ohio, Bahjat ‘Bill’ Abdallah, an immigration lawyer that represents clients in the Dayton and Cincinnati regions, said. In his 10 years as an immigration lawyer, he’s only seen a handful of cases where an unaccompanied child was abandoned at the border.
This year has been different; he’s handled 7 cases since March, he said.
“There’s a rush of them,” Abdallah said. “This use to be a once-every-other-year type of case.”
There has been a 117 percent rise in unaccompanied children, ages 12 and younger, apprehended at or near the border from fiscal year 2013 to 2014, according to Pew Research Center data released this week.
But by far, most of the people being apprehended are teenagers. A 91 percent increase of those teens caught on the border was reported between 2013 and May of 2014, according to the center.