There's a few things to note, besides the biggie that these are primarily youth. (Sidebar: I'm surprised the wingnuts haven't unveiled the phrase "anchor teens" yet.) The second biggest is that, while the numbers are growing, the U.S. border isn't being overrun by 1 million, or even 100,000, Hispanic teenagers.
The next big thing is that these are not from Mexico. Rather, most of them are from Central America, specifically the so-called "northern triangle" of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Commonality? U.S. meddling, sometimes going back decades, to prop up or install repressive right-wing governments.
Guatemala is the original banana republic, when Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a 1954 coup, launched by the CIA and done on behalf of United Fruit, parent of Chiquita Bananas. Sidebar: This is why Ike blathered about the military-industrial complex. He thought the snoops-industrial complex could do things like this cheaper, as it had already in Iran, and as Ike planned for it to do in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
Per that Wikipedia link:
Following the coup Guatemala was ruled by a series of US-backed military regimes until 1996. The coup sparked off the Guatemalan civil war against leftist guerrillas, during which the military committed massive human rights violations against the civilian population, including a genocidal campaign against the Mayans.All of that contributed to a lack of stability that is tied to gang-related crime in Guatemala today.
El Salvador? This is where Reagan backed death squads in the early 1980s.
Honduras? That's where Reagan built up a U.S. military presence in the 1980s, to support the aid to the death squads in El Salvador as well as the help to the "freedom fighters" trying to overthrow the democratically elected leftist government in Nicaragua. Can't forget about the burning U.S. hatred for the Sandanistas, can we? That said, Nicaragua has managed to have more stability than the above three countries, probably in part because the U.S. was never able to get the same foothold there.
That said, all four countries, including Nicaragua, have per capita incomes about one-third that of Mexico. Purchasing power may go farther, but still, that's a slim income. Also, while NAFTA only undercut Mexico's agriculture, CAFTA may have some similar effects further south.
So, between U.S.-caused instability, U.S.-connected violence, and possible U.S.-caused wage instability, is it any wonder that people from these countries are coming north?
Chickens coming home to roost.
And, that's not the only way they are.
In its own craven nod to McCarthyism, already back at the time of that Arbenz coup, the AFL-CIO was helping set up "friendly" unions in Latin America, many of which were little more than CIA listening posts.
And, the Reaganite anti-Communism of the 1980s, combined with conservative Catholics in both the U.S. and Latin America taking their cues from the papal ascent of John Paul II and kicking liberation theology, and a more liberal attitude toward birth control, to the curb had other consequences.
Result? On birth control? Guatemala having the highest birth rate in the Western Hemisphere. Honduras is second highest. They're both below a number of African and south Asian countries, but their rate is high enough to add to all the instability, with exploding populations.
On the rest of liberation theology? More liberal priests and bishops, and nuns, who challenged right-wing governments to do more for the poor, especially if they led protests and movements themselves, got reassigned. Ask Francis the Talking Pope about that, and his own involvement with the reassignments.
Of course, that ignores the more liberal church workers who, at least in places like Francis' Argentina, met the jails and torture cells of the right-wing dictators. Or sometimes, met their guns.
Take that, to a Texas lite guv candidate, The Stinking Anglo Formerly Known as Danny Goeb™. And no, they're not diseased, either.
So, yes, failure to actually go to the border may be Obama's Katrina moment, or at least something in the neighborhood. But, he's cleaning up a mess that's more Republican than Democratic. (That's setting aside that neoliberal Democrats often went along for the GOP ride, especially on free trade.)
And, making it easier to throw the kids back across the border may be a short-term answer for the U.S. but it's not a long-term answer for us, nor any sort of answer at all for Central America.
I'm actually surprised it took this long for this much of a surge like this. That said, in the previous decade, when I was in suburban Dallas, my anecdotal evidence is that, based on young children's entries in elementary school projects, at least 10 percent of Hispanic immigration to America, if not more, was from further south than Mexico, namely, from Central America.