The American government says people in Central America are coming to the United States because they believe they will be permitted to stay if they claim they are refugees escaping violence.
But this is not true.
A former U.S. immigration officer says actions being taken by Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border may be causing people to believe differently.
The Obama administration says as many as 90,000 children might try to enter the United States illegally from Mexico this year.
Why so many?
Former U.S. Immigration Special Agent Hipolito Acosta says U.S. law might be the reason.
“When individuals enter the country illegally and they are issued a notice to appear at a later date for an immigration hearing, the likelihood is that they are not going to appear.”
Mr. Acosta says more federal agents are needed to find people who do not come to court when ordered.
He says family members in the United States who pay to smuggle their children into the country should be held responsible.
“If that family member is in the country illegally, we must reunite them with the children that entered the country. And they must all be placed in deportation proceedings and ultimately removed from the country.”
Mr. Acosta says he crossed the border illegally many times when he worked as a Border Patrol agent.
“I was the first agent in the history of our agency who went to Mexico and actually got smuggled all the way from Mexico to the interior cities in the United States.”
Mr. Acosta wrote a book called “The Shadow Catcher.” In the book, he tells about the times when he made people think he was an immigrant. Police call this “going undercover.” He also writes about when he spoke in court against smugglers and people who abused immigrant children.
Mr. Acosta grew up in a Mexican-American community near the border in Texas. He speaks English and Spanish. He says immigrants should respect U.S. law.
“Certainly, I can understand somebody wanting to make a better way of life. But I expect them to go and do it the right way.”
Mr. Acosta says some politicians are not trying to solve the problem. He says some of them use the immigration issue to gain political support.
“I think they should put those things aside and do what is best for the country.”
Mr. Acosta says Congress should pass an immigration reform bill that would allow people from Central America and Mexico to work in the United States temporarily. He says the law also should punish employers who let undocumented immigrants work in their companies.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
This story is based on a report by VOA reporter Greg Flakus in Houston, Texas.