EL PASO, Texas - A new UTEP study shows Central American immigrants have no reason to stop crossing the border illegally. In fact, researchers found they benefit from being detained.
The authors, Dr. Kyle Susa and former Border Patrol Chief Victor Manjarrez, Jr. focused on the Fort Brown station in Brownsville, where the majority of Central American children are coming into the United States.
The study found Border Patrol agents are so busy transporting these migrants going grocery shopping for them, doing laundry and getting them cleaned up, that agents aren't able to actually patrol the border.
But even more interesting, Manjarrez said, this influx of thousands of "Other than Mexican" or OTS immigrants isn't new, but when it happened in 2004, the government was able to curtail it.
"These people were simply not trying to evade apprehension," Manjarrez said. They were crossing and looking for a border patrol agent surrender."
Manjarrez said unaccompanied minors are walking up to agents in parts of south Texas with their hands already raised, ready to be turned in.
"When we were doing our observations and interviews, the message that kept on coming across to us was a lack of consequence," Manjarrez said.
In his and Susa's study of unaccompanied children, the researchers found that these kids know nothing of consequence will happen to them when they're arrested. In fact, they're not deterred from getting caught because they know they'll be reunited with a family member while the long, arduous process for immigrant children takes place.
Manjarrez said he saw the same thing in San Diego in 1994, where the border was flooding with migrants. He said it was due in part to the "Catch and Release" policy.
Immigrants knew they'd be caught, then released, while they waited for their court date. Manjarrez said, they rarely appeared before a judge.
"In 2004-2005 the same dynamic occurred, the only difference was that there was legislation that was passed and that was the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004,"Manjarrez said.
That act increased increased the number of bed space border patrol had by 40,000, which means the border patrol could detain the immigrants until their court date, instead of releasing them, sending them back to their country afterward. The effect was almost immediate.
"Word travels really fast, and it went back to Honduras really quick, Guatemala, El Salvador, and it was almost like turning off a faucet," Manjarrez said.
Now its 2014, and 60,000+ unaccompanied minors are expected to be inside our borders by September. Manjarrez points to a 2012 policy in which interior security was reduced, meaning if an immigrant could get to Chicago, he or she wouldn't be pursued or face any consequences.
In an effort to turn off the faucet Governor Rick Perry is employing up to 1,000 national guard troops to the border, but Manjarrez said, that's won't deter immigrants from coming if there's no consequence to getting arrested.
"You really don't need surveillance capabilities if someone's giving up," Manjarrez said.
The study will now go to Rutgers University and USC, where researchers will try to find solutions.
This UTEP study was featured in the Washington Post and Manjarrez will be interviewed Tuesday on national TV on MSNBC at 10:30 a.m. MST and Fox News at 2 p.m.//