Demonstrators draw chalk figures of little boys and girls at the 24th Street Bart plaza in support of the 63,000 minors from Central America who have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. About 100 demonstrators marched down Mission Street on Aug. 2. Photo Alejandro Galicia

More than a month’s time has lapsed since the Obama administration first publicly and bluntly set its stance on the tens of thousands of immigrant youths fleeing their Central American homelands:

“It’s unlikely that most of these kids will qualify for humanitarian relief,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told a pool of Washington reporters on July 7, as detention centers nationwide flooded above maximum capacity with undocumented minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. “It means they will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned.”

The day after Earnest’s comments, Obama requested $3.7 billion in federal emergency funding to stem border crossings and speed up immigration proceedings.

Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski (Md.) crafted a bill that would have allocated $2.7 billion, but Republicans blocked the bill on July 31. Republicans in the house barely passed a bill for $694 million before congress adjourned for its five-week recess Aug. 1. But the house legislation has virtually no chance of being signed by the president, as it contains a provision that would “freeze” Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), effectively prohibiting federal resources from being used to process new applications.

Because of congress’ inability to act, the president has hinted that he might use his executive powers to move on immigration while the lawmakers are on vacation.

However, many immigration reform advocates consider the current dealings in Washington to be an unsustainable attempt at patching a problem that’s been decades in the making.

An estimated 63,000 minors have been detained at the border since October 2013, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) predicts the number will rise to 90,000 by the end of this year.

“It’s not a matter of turning them right back around or deporting them immediately,” said Stacy Jones, senior staff attorney for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). “Despite knowing the dangers and risks that are inherent on a many thousand-mile long journey through multiple countries to a foreign land, they are still fleeing—clearly something needs to be done on the other end.”

Blanca Vazquez, who is an organizer for the East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition, attributes much of the current flood of immigration to U.S. foreign policy.

“This influx in migration is the consequence of … the United States funneling funds to other countries to militarize them instead of providing real resources—real financial aid, to allow them to grow and flourish,” Vazquez said. ”We are looking at this from a complete humanitarian aspect and saying that if any fault should be imposed on anybody, it should be on the historical role of the U.S. government’s foreign policy in Central America.”

The United States’ involvement in El Salvador’s civil war (1979-1992) can’t be undone, nor can the CIA-backed coup d’état of 1954 that overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected president Jacobo Árbenz. But the United States could choose to use its considerable resources more constructively.

“We need to question our government and the way they are spending our tax dollars on foreign policy,” said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, executive director of the San Francisco-based Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). “How you spend the resources is going to yield a certain outcome, and the United States needs to recognize that part of what we are seeing today is the outcome of how we spend tax dollars.”

More than 17,000 juveniles have fled just from Honduras, which is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and currently has the highest homicide rate worldwide.

During a July interview with the Washington Post, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández blamed the narcotics trade for the violence in his country and the United States for keeping the narcotics traffickers in business.

“The problem of narco-trafficking generates violence, reduces opportunities, generates migration because this [the United States] is where there’s the largest consumption of drugs. That’s leaving us with such an enormous loss of life,” Hernández said.

While gang and drug violence, poverty and corruption are contributing factors to the region’s “youth exodus,” many point to the flawed U.S. immigration system, which even the president has repeatedly called “broken.”

But reforming the broken system, which has historically rewarded big business through the hiring of an undocumented workforce, has so far proved nearly impossible.

“We have a capitalist system that is completely diseased. All decisions that we see are symptoms of this illness,” said San Francisco State University Professor Felix Kury, who specializes in mental health policy issues facing Latinos in the United States. “This is a real crisis.”

Felix suggested that it is Democrats who need to be held accountable for their inability to enact meaningful reform.

“We have to punish the Democrats in the November elections if they don’t take the position that they ought to take. We have to be critical of the liberal democrats that have done absolutely nothing about the immigration reform.”

Whatever happens in November, the issue of immigration is not going to go away.

“[The] American people are made to believe that the border is secure and that all these funds are being allocated to increment border enforcement,” said Vazquez. “It might be an immediate solution, but it’s definitely not going to solve the problem, and we might even be looking at a greater crisis in a couple of years.”

El Tecolote staff Laura Waxmann, Alexis Terrazas and Atticus Morris contributed to this report.