Hundreds of migrant children and adolescents have been quickly deported by US authorities

Hundreds Of Migrant Children And Adolescents Have Been Quickly Deported By US Authorities

By Caitlin Dickerson

The last time Sandra Rodríguez saw her son, Gerson, she bent down to look him in the eye. “Be good,” he said to tell her how to behave when she met Border Patrol agents from across the river in the United States, and when she met her uncle in Houston.

The 10-year-old boy nodded and gave his mother one last forced smile. Tears stagnated in the dimples on her cheeks, she recalled, as she boarded a raft and crossed the Rio Grande toward Texas from Mexico, guided by a stranger who was also trying to reach the United States.


Rodríguez expected Gerson to be in Border Patrol custody for a few days and then transferred to a government migrant children’s shelter, where his brother in Houston could pick him up at the end. However, Gerson seemed to disappear from the other side of the river. For six hectic days, she didn’t hear from her son, didn’t know if he had been arrested, and had had no contact with Houston’s uncle.

Eventually, she received an alarmed phone call from a cousin in Honduras who told her Gerson was with her. The little boy was crying and disoriented, according to his relatives; He seemed confused about how he had ended up back in the dangerous place from which he had fled.

Hundreds of migrant children and adolescents have been quickly deported by US authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or apply for asylum because of the violence in their home countries. This is completely contrary to the established practice that has been respected for years for the management of young foreigners who come to the United States.

The deportations represent an extraordinary turnaround seen in recent weeks on the southwest border, in which the safeguards that both Democratic and Republican governments have guaranteed for migrant children have apparently been abandoned.

Historically, migrant children who arrived at the border without the company of an adult had access to shelter, education, medical care, and a comprehensive administrative process that allowed them to argue reasons for staying in the United States. Those who were eventually deported were only sent back until proper preparations had been made to ensure that they had a safe place to return to.

Apparently, the most recent decrees of US President Donald Trump regarding border control have abruptly dismissed that process. Some young migrants have been deported within hours of stepping onto US soil. Others have been removed from their beds in the shelters of the United States government in the middle of the night to get on planes and expel them from the country without notifying their families.

The Trump administration is trying to justify the new practices with a 1944 law that gives the president broad powers to prevent foreigners from entering the country in order to evade the “grave threat” of a dangerous disease. However, in recent weeks, immigration agents have also abruptly expelled migrant children and adolescents who were already in the United States when the pandemic-related mandate was issued in late March.

Since the decree went into effect, hundreds of young migrants have been deported, including some who had pending asylum hearings in the judicial system.

Some of the youth have been put on board planes back to Central America, while others have been forced to return to Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in dirty tents and crowded shelters.

In March and April, the most recent period for which data is available, 915 young migrants were expelled shortly after reaching the US border and 60 were sent to their countries of origin from within the country.

In that same period, at least 166 young migrants had access to the United States and to protections that were once customary. However, the Customs and Border Protection Office has also deviated from its usual custom by refusing to disclose how the government is deciding which legal rules to apply to which children.

“We just can’t go public,” said Matthew Dyman, the agency’s public relations specialist, citing concerns that if human traffickers know how the laws are enforced they will take advantage of that information to facilitate the illegal entry of more people into the country.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration extended the strengthened border security policy that allows young migrants to be deported at the border, and stated that the policy would remain in effect indefinitely and would be reviewed every 30 days.

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said the policy had been “one of the most crucial tools the department has used to prevent further spread of the virus and protect the people American, DHS officials on the front lines, and COVID-19 patients in their care and custody. ”

A spokesperson for the agency said its policies to deport children from within the country had not changed.

Democratic members of Congress argue that the speedy deportations currently taking place violate the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, a federal law that was enacted 20 years ago and lays out standards for handling foreign children. arriving at the US border without an adult.

Last month, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Wolf saying that these strategies had “no known precedent or clear legal basis.”

Immigrant advocates say their pleas to ensure children have a safe place to return to have been ignored. Since the coronavirus was first discovered in the United States in January, 239 unaccompanied minors have been sent back to Guatemala and 183 to Honduras, according to government figures.

“The fact that no one knows who these children are and that there are hundreds of them really is terrifying,” said Jennifer Nagda, policy director for the Juvenile Center for the Rights of Immigrant Children. “There is no way of knowing if they have been placed in the hands of traffickers or if they are in danger.”

Some minors have been deported at night despite the policy of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service which states that they must only repatriate during the day.



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