An Administrative Stopgap for Migrants from the Northern Triangle

From 2011–2014, the United States Department of Homeland Security recorded an extraordinary increase in the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border from Central America’s “Northern Triangle”—the area made up of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In fact, in fiscal year 2014, United States Customs and Border Protection apprehended over 50,000 unaccompanied children from the Northern Triangle. That is thirteen times more than just three years earlier. This Article examines the intersecting humanitarian and legal crises facing these children and offers an administrative solution to the problem. The children are fleeing a genuine humanitarian crisis—a region overrun by violent gangs that regularly target young people for recruitment. Once in the United States, these children face their own legal crisis. Indeed, they must confront numerous procedural and substantive hurdles, trying to avoid removal. As a result, many of the children are at serious risk of being deported and subsequently killed by the very gangs that they fled. Given this situation, the Article argues that President Obama’s administration should provide temporary humanitarian protection to these migrants by exercising its congressionally delegated power to designate El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras as new “temporary protected status” countries. Under this proposal, the United States would provide a temporary safe haven to nationals of these three countries until the horrific gang violence in the Northern Triangle subsides.