Behind the Border Crisis

Friday, July 11, 2014


For the past few weeks the media have been reporting on a surge in unaccompanied minors who are crossing the border illegally, bringing attention to the latest immigration crisis. But the reality of the situation is far more complicated. Brooke talks with reporter Bob Ortega about what's really happening on the border.


Bob Ortega

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [19]

Stephanie from Michigan

For those asking about a transcript for this story...there are links at the top of the page just above the photo. The last one, looks like a bunch of horizontal lines, takes you to the transcript.

Jul. 27 2014 07:17 PM
Aimee from Boston

Will OTM be adding a transcript for this story? I would love to use for a lesson on immigration!!

Jul. 18 2014 10:42 AM

It would have been nice to have balanced this report with the mention that our government knew this was going to happen because they sought to hire border escorts months ago.

Jul. 17 2014 03:44 PM
Keith Schaeffer from Tucson

Thanks for the great reporting, Bob. You are informed by actually being there in Central America and on the border and talking to people, while so many in this comment section are apparently informed by their fear and bigotry. I was brought up to believe this is "the home of the brave." But I look at the angry anti-immigrant mobs with their cowardice and spittle ("Nazi Brown Shirts" is the phrase that comes to mind) and I think "Home of the brave -- not so much." Thank goodness for the appropriate responses to these refugee children by the nonprofit agencies and faith communities that are trying to help.

Jul. 15 2014 10:24 PM
John Eller from Iowa

saddened not to find the transcript for this story.

Jul. 15 2014 07:15 PM

Maybe your guest has been deconstructed...

Jul. 15 2014 10:07 AM
Bruce from Columbia, Maryland

Thanks for the perspective and background on this latest media created "crisis." Lebanon and Jordan are dealing with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, a real "crisis" -- where the word "massive" truly applies. I realize that for some people, blaming and insulting our President is always the answer. But instead of trying to assign blame, let's grow up and support reasonable, fair and humane solutions to this unanticipated influx of teens and preteens on our border.

Jul. 14 2014 10:37 PM

I heard about a minute of this show. A woman was interviewing a man. The man said something like (this is a paraphrase),"the republicans say that these children are coming to the US because President Obama (words to the effect) invited them. There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. These kids are coming to the US to avoid gang violence". I turned off the radio. I was and am absolutely outraged that anyone would think that I was STUPID enough to believe that. These kids have parents. Does anyone believe that a reasonable parent is going to allow their kids to go a thousand miles through Mexico to cross the border into the US to avoid gangs? Here is what I think is happening. I may be wrong but I refuse to contemplate that I am as wrong as that deluded man.

Coyotes heard President Obama's speech and recognized an opportunity. They go to small villages and tell the parents, give us money. We will transport your kids to the States. We will keep them safe. President Obama said that they will be able to stay. God willing, maybe later you can join them - for an additional fee, of course. Parents in Mexico and Central American turn over their kids to the coyotes and the kids get transported. By the way, this is a good investment for the coyotes, those parents are highly motivated to see their kids again. As the kids are sent north, very few of them come back -- that are being allowed to stay! The kids write letters to their parents. The parents talk, "This is working! Our kids are getting to the states and they aren't being sent home!" The pace picks up and more kids are sent.

This is wrong? The kids ran away from home a thousand miles to avoid gangs? Bull!

Mexico either enables this traffic or turning a blind eye. Mexico is holding a US Marine in jail over a silly charge and we cannot get him back? In the immigration and drugs domains, Mexico is not our friend and anyone who tells you that they are is trying to sell you a bridge. Kids ran away from home and traveled a 1,000 miles to a country where they are illegal to get away from gangs? Yeah, right. What color would you on your bridge?

Jul. 14 2014 09:33 PM
Vito Danelli from Darien, CT

Brooke, I truly feel that you try to be as fair and accurate as possible in your broadcasts, but I think you let Bob frame the story to the way Bob wanted it. When Bob referred to the protest in Murietta, CA - the line about "not our children", you let Bob end the story that these are all of our "children". A tug at our heart strings. Definitely a slanted, one-way story.

Jul. 13 2014 10:12 PM
Dan from PA

Having had 8 hours to reflect on my comment and the situation I thought I'd add a little meat to its bones...

Based on the arguments of those who would say that the refugees of Central America are fleeing violence, let's look at the comparable(though worse) situation in Syria, a country beset by violence. According to, the breakdown of Syrian refugees looks like this:
Jordan - 600,000
Lebanon - 900,000
Turkey - 670,000
Iraq - 212,000
So there are Syrian refugees even willing to go to that paragon of peace and stability known as Iraq (OK, they're mostly Kurds, but even so...). But my main point is still this: seeing how many people are fleeing the violence in Syria and that they're will to go to ANY of the surrounding countries to escape it, how many other countries are the people from Honduras/Guatemala/El-Salvador fleeing TO? The Syrians will go in ANY direction to flee the violence there as seen above, but where are the Central American refugees fleeing to (per my earlier post, I don't know how many are fleeing to Costa Rica, Colombia, etc) If they're only going to U.S. (and, per Google maps, it's > 1000 miles from Guatemala (the closest of the three) as opposed to Lebanon/Turkey/Iraq/Jordan which are all direct neighbors of Syria) then they aren't fleeing their home countries so much as they are fleeing TO the u.S.

And another thing....if people are fleeing these countries en mass because of gang violence, doesn't that make them failed states? What is the U.S. State Department doing? If these CHILDREN are truly refugees, why aren't we flying empty planes to Central America to rescue them as opposed to forcing them make a harrowing 1,000 mile journey through Mexico?

Jul. 13 2014 09:23 PM
sandrita m from Los Angeles

To add to the point that Dan from PA made, why isn't the focus on making Central American countries safer instead of helping their people migrate? During this same broadcast we heard about violence in Chicago. We don't think, "Let's move Chicago's children out of Chicago to another country a thousand miles away." If that sounds ridiculous, so is the idea that the solution to Central America's violence is for Central Americans to migrate to the U.S.

Jul. 13 2014 06:25 PM
Amy from Texas

I listened to this piece this morning and thought excellent reporting. I work with immigrant kids and their families on a daily basis, and see that their children's safety and well being is their top priority. Thank you for giving us the straight facts and reasons behind the current trend in youth illegal immigration. Keep up the good work.

I heard an NPR report some time ago about how the US has been deporting LA gang members of Salvadoran descent to El Salvador, which is compounding El Salvador's gang problem. Am interested in hearing if that is still happening.

Jul. 13 2014 05:27 PM

Amnesty is a lit lamp, and draws moths. It is not the fault of the moths, it is the fault of the one who lit the lamp.

We cannot bring all of the unfortunate children of the world to Texas and California. The main reason that the places they are fleeing are so horrible, and our nation is comparatively attractive, is that their nations have bad rules and our nation has, historically, had better rules, which we have followed. If we discard our rules, or decline to follow them, we make our nation more like the ones these people have fled.

Why would we do that?

Jul. 13 2014 04:28 PM

Thanks for the solid reporting. Of course there will always be those like Mark from Texas, who ignore the truth in the continuing desire to blame the Administration and Pres. Obama no matter what.

Jul. 13 2014 02:25 PM
Mark from Texas

I listened to this piece in the gym and just seethed. The script was straight out of the White House - On the Media should be ashamed of this level of reporting.

The number of kids assaulting the border has skyrocketed only since Obama gave the Nightmare Kids (Dreams) virtually amnesty in 2012. The number of detainees was 4000 - 6000 a year up until then, now it's 60,000+ Violence in Central America suddenly got 10X worse? When did any of those countries declare martial law if it's that bad?

The Deportation figures are down because the definition of deport was changed to include turn arounds at the border - the real figures are much higher that this "transparent" administration claims.

Obama wants 4 billion to "fix" the problem - that's almost $67,000 per kid (now). How do you clean up a mess if you don't shut the faucet off making it before you try to mop up? Obama didn't even have the guts to go to the border this week when he was fundraising in Texas - bad optics.

This is Obama's Katrina. But unlike Bush who after being blasted by the media for everything that wasn't his responsibility (see Ray Nagin and Katherine Blanco), Obama gets a pass like this horrible piece.

"it's for the children" "It's the violence driving them" will rank with "If you like your Doctor, you can keep him" as the new lie of the year.

Jul. 13 2014 12:20 PM
Dan from PA

From what the reporter said the primary reason people are fleeing these Central American countries is fear of gang violence and NOT to just try to get into the U.S. If fleeing violence is indeed the primary cause, how many of them are fleeing to countries OTHER than the U.S.? Is Colombia awash in Guatemalans? Are there Hondurans flocking to Ecuador?

Jul. 13 2014 11:40 AM
Susan from New York

Along the lines of what Douglas is pointing out, it is interesting to note that Americans will protest Clothing companies that use children as workers, or mistreat workers, or do not provide a safe working environment for workers, but when parents and the children of those who do not want to work for the local drug lords are tortured and chopped up into pieces (which has been going on for quite a long time), American drug use does not seem to abate.

Jul. 13 2014 10:48 AM
Keith Connor from Kansas City

Nice report Bob. Keep up the good work.

Jul. 12 2014 08:22 PM
Douglas from El Paso

One under-reported aspect of the border crisis that I didn't hear mentioned is how the demand for illegal drugs in the US is driving the violence in Central America.

Jul. 12 2014 11:33 AM

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