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Immigration peace relies on secure neighbors

Children participate in a U.S. citizenship ceremony at

Children participate in a U.S. citizenship ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services district office in Manhattan. Some 118,000 immigrants applied for U.S. citizenship and 2,500 children received citizenship certificates in the New York City in 2012. (Jan. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

There has been a massive decline in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing our Southern border illegally in the past nine months, and that's good news. That number, 17,439 kids from Oct. 1 through the end of July, is still very high by historical standards, but represents a manageable problem rather than a public-policy panic.

One thing that has improved is border security by Mexican authorities, which has kept a lot of immigrants from reaching the United States. Word also seems to have reached more people in Central America that kids are no longer getting through in large numbers.

Last summer, the number of unaccompanied minors flooding north to the United States was stunning and unprecedented. According to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, more than 53,000 children from Central America came to the United States in a 12-month period. Most were from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and were fleeing violent drug gangs and extreme poverty in their homelands.

The flow was both heartbreaking and frightening. Many people felt for the children but feared local U.S. schools would be disrupted and even bankrupted by the influx of children being resettled with relatives. This was a real problem in some New York City schools, particularly in neighborhoods with a high percentage of Hispanic immigrants, where both finances and educational achievement were already big challenges.

It's good that this chaotic migration has slowed. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to reflect an improving climate in Central America, which must be so unspeakable that parents would send their children on such treacherous journeys. We are seeing a similar type of frantic immigration in Europe, as refugees from Middle Eastern violence seek safety, and it's just as saddening as scary.

In the long run, if we are to have an orderly and prosperous nation, our neighbor nations must reach a bare minimum of peace and prosperity, too. And helping them achieve that has to be one of the answers to how we bring illegal immigration under control.

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