Credible Fears, Unaccompanied Minors, and the Causes of the Southwestern Border Surge

50 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2014 Last revised: 1 Jun 2015

See all articles by Scott Rempell

Scott Rempell

South Texas College of Law Houston

Date Written: July 31, 2014


In recent years, immigration officials have witnessed a surge in border crossings by two groups of migrants: those subject to expedited removal who claim to fear persecution and unaccompanied alien children (“UAC”). The surge in UAC border crossings, in particular, has garnered considerable national attention. Many causes have been offered to account for these surges, but the proffered reasons are often contradictory or grounded in untested assumptions. It is important, however, to identify the causes because the history of immigration is a collection of derivations on cyclical events and arguments presented as if they were entirely unprecedented. Whatever one’s beliefs about the optimal level and types of migration, immigration law and policy should be rooted in a greater understanding of the significance of the various push and pull factors that influence migratory patterns. This article examines the available data to try to identify the factors that have contributed to the surge in border crossings by credible fear claimants and UACs. While individual circumstances vary, as a general matter, dire country conditions in the Northern Triangle further deteriorated in certain ways around the time of the surges. The continued deterioration increased the incentive to leave. Concurrently, specific U.S. laws, practices, and immigration policies — along with claims made by nefarious opportunists — led to some accurate and some misinformed perceptions that certain migrants have a greater chance to enter or remain in the United States. When these perceptions spread amidst deteriorating country conditions, it provided the spark that motivated a greater number of credible fear claimants and UACs to make the dangerous journey north.

Keywords: Migration, causes of migration, border surge, southwestern border surge, unaccompanied minors, unaccompanied alien children, UAC, credible fear, persecution, asylum, DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, immigration, immigration reform, human trafficking, human smuggling, refugee

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39, K41, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Rempell, Scott, Credible Fears, Unaccompanied Minors, and the Causes of the Southwestern Border Surge (July 31, 2014). Chapman Law Review, Vol. 18, Winter 2015, Available at SSRN:

Scott Rempell (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law Houston ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States

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