POLITICS

Number Of Unaccompanied Minors Entering U.S. Drops By About Half In A Year

Tourists pass the US Capitol building on a tour bus July 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI        (Pho
Tourists pass the US Capitol building on a tour bus July 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas, July 7 (Reuters) - The number of unaccompanied children entering the United States across the southwest border has dropped sharply from a year ago after action by the U.S. government, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

In the period from Oct. 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, the number of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, crossing into the United States reached 57,478, causing humanitarian, political, logistical and diplomatic problems for the Obama administration.

In the same period this year, the number fell by 54 percent to 26,685, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. Most of the crossings occurred in southern Texas, which posted a nearly 60 percent fall to 17,179 in the period.

Traveling without relatives and often escorted by smugglers, the children created a humanitarian crisis on the border with Mexico, with President Barack Obama taking hits from prominent Republicans who accused him of not doing enough to secure the country.

To contain last year's surge, U.S. authorities opened temporary shelters, reassigned border agents, added processing centers and immigration judges and started Spanish-language campaigns in the countries most of the children were fleeing - El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Last year, then-Texas Governor Rick Perry, now a Republican presidential hopeful, deployed the state's National Guard to the border, a move he said was aimed at boosting border security but critics called an ineffective action aimed at scoring political points. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott)

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