Texas Gov. Rick Perry is accusing the Obama administration of "perpetuating" a recent "surge" in illegal immigrant children who are crossing into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America without their parents and often falling straight into government care.
In a letter obtained by Fox News, Perry wrote to President Obama on Friday citing stats that show more than 5,200 "unaccompanied minors" were taken into U.S. custody in the first six months of the fiscal year -- a more than 90 percent increase compared with the same period a year ago.
Perry, a former Republican presidential candidate, claimed that a failure to immediately send them back is "perpetuating the problem" by encouraging other children and teenagers to make the trek. He said the journey is dangerous for the children, and their flow into the United States is a burden on his state and others. The governor urged the administration to eliminate the "temptation" to make "this tragic and illegal migration."
"Every day of delay risks more lives," Perry wrote. "Every child allowed to remain encourages hundreds more to attempt the journey. Our country can no longer provide the temptation for these unaccompanied minors to engage in this tragic and illegal migration. To end it, the federal government must stop new arrivals at the border, repatriate those already here and prevent and discourage others."
It's unclear exactly how many are being sent back. Perry claimed that an administration member "indicated" fewer than 10 percent are being deported. The children reportedly are coming into the U.S. for a range of reasons, looking for jobs as well as family members in the States.
A recent Associated Press article on the surge reported that 1,390 unaccompanied children crossed over the border and into U.S. custody in March alone. Some have even been housed at Lackland Air Force Base on a temporary basis while they are being processed.
The children, after being initially detained by the Department of Homeland Security, are typically handed over to the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement -- a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.
A Department of Homeland Security official confirmed to FoxNews.com that the number of unaccompanied minors going into HHS care has gone up. But the official stressed that "migration patterns, including those of groups such as unaccompanied children, differ during any given year based on a wide variety of factors." The official noted that apprehensions were down 53 percent in fiscal 2011, compared with 2008, "an indication that less individuals are trying to cross the border as a result of a number of factors including increased border security."
In addition, the official said that even as the number of minors going into HHS care rises, the number of actual Border Patrol apprehensions is "on par with past years." And the official said the unaccompanied minors account for just 5 percent of total Border Patrol apprehensions.
Most of the minors are placed in a shelter after being sent to HHS care. They stay in those shelters an average of more than 60 days, according to a recent study by the Vera Institute of Justice. From there, at least 65 percent of the children are handed over to live with a sponsor inside the United States, the study said. The report described their processing as a "disjointed labyrinthine system."