Drones and arrests: Can they stem the tide of young immigrants?

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on June 23, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 3 at 5:33 PM

The numbers are varied depending on the source. Some lawmakers say 300 to 400 kids are crossing the border into Texas every day.

Others say it's more like 100.

Either way, the system has trouble dealing with them.

Victoria County Sheriff Michael O'Connor says the problem with policing the border is that law enforcement is more reactive than proactive. And he says federal agencies — Health and Human Services, Customs and Border Patrol, and the Office of Homeland Security — tend to "stovepipe" rather than work with each other.

"With this influx of immigrants coming in, it just exasperates it even more," O'Connor said. "Local jurisdictions, the sheriff's offices, are overwhelmed. We do not have the personnel to handle these issues."

Michelle Scopellette is an immigration attorney with offices in both Tuscon and Dallas. She told News 8 she isn't sure whether putting more people on the border will keep kids out of the country. But she added that something needs to be tried, because the legal system moves too slowly to dispatch justice to minor children.

"A person moves away," she said. "And if [the authorities] don't' keep track of their addresses, and if these kids are released into society, it"s a nightmare."

Scopellette said that although a unaccompanied child may receive a "notice to appear" in immigration court within days of entering the U.S., in a city like El Paso it could be two or three years before a child will get a date to appear in court.

"I'm not saying beefing up security isn't going to help, or will help," she said. "It's just that if something isn't done to prevent them from entering our country, we're going to have to take responsibility for those children who will eventually become adults during this process."

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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