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‘Children’ and ‘numbers’ elevate Central American immigration crisis, UB immigration expert says

Rick Su standing at a podium in front of a chalkboard in the classroom.

The Central American immigration crisis is about children, says UB's Rick Su, and existing immigration law forbids the U.S. government from sending child refugees back into danger.

Release Date: July 28, 2014

“It’s much more of a refugee situation that we usually talk about in the Middle East or Africa. Except it’s happening in our own backyard.”
Rick Su, professor of law
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo Law School Professor and immigration expert Rick Su says the ongoing flood of Central American children coming to the U.S. differs from other refugee crises because of the large number of children leaving their families and risking their lives to find new homes.

“I think on one hand, it’s the numbers,” Su says. “We’ve gone to an unprecedented level in terms of minors actually coming to the country and seeking protection, of some sort or another.”

But Su stressed that the crisis is not solely about numbers. The U.S. government deports or excludes at least 500,000 illegal immigrants a year, according to Su.

“The difference is that this is about children,” he says. “And we have not had to actually deal with this many children at any stage up until this point.”

Su’s commentary is available in a video he made for the university:  http://bit.ly/UBexperts.

Since the beginning of 2014, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Central America, have illegally crossed the Mexican border into the U.S., already more than double the previous year’s total. The White House expects as many as 90,000 children will have crossed the border by the end of 2014.

The children are often fleeing drug-fueled gang violence in their home countries, often being pressured to work as carriers for deadly drug deals.  Immigration experts expect up to 140,000 of these children will try to escape their dangerous surroundings and escape to the U.S. by the end of 2015.

Su says existing immigration law forbids the U.S. government from sending child refugees back into danger, or “harm’s way,” as he describes it.

“Since World War II, we have a law on the books that says if anyone comes and seeks protection from persecution, we would have to make sure that we do not have blood on our hands -- to send them back into a situation in which they may be killed or harmed or tortured, or otherwise persecuted by either a government force, or an organization the government is unwilling or unable to control.”

Su says the current flood of children entering the country’s southern borders is not the more common immigration issue that usually has to do with economics.

“It’s much more of a refugee situation that we usually talk about in the Middle East or Africa,” Su says. “Except it’s happening in our own backyard.”

Su is available for interviews on this and other immigration issues. Contact Su at ricksu@buffalo.edu.

Media Contact Information

Charles Anzalone
News Content Manager, Education, EOC, Law, Social Work
Tel: 716-645-4600
anzalon@buffalo.edu