The changing face of undocumented immigration

When you think of undocumented immigration, do you picture Central American families seeking asylum?

Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, says that demographic group exceeded the figures for Mexicans or single adults in 2016.

Violence and poverty in Central America are particular “push” factors driving the families to leave their homes, Secretary Johnson says. And because they are overwhelmingly asylum-seekers – rather than the economic migrants who have entered the United States without papers in the past – they are permitted to stay in the US until their claims are processed.

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The changing face of undocumented immigration may affect how the US addresses the issue. Johnson called for a judicious mix of policies to address poverty and violence in the region, including allowing for in-country asylum requests and improving border security technologies.

“We are determined to treat migrants in a humane manner,” Johnson said in a statement on Monday. “At the same time, we must enforce our immigration laws consistent with our enforcement priorities. This has included, and will continue to include, providing individuals with an opportunity to assert claims for asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief.”

The tide of immigrant demographics was turning in 2014, when a surge in undocumented minors crossing the US border and requesting asylum prompted President Obama to call it an “urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated federal response.”

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