U.S. border authorities deported immigrant children from other countries into Mexico, violated diplomatic agreements with Mexico, and examined the limits of immigration and child welfare laws.
The deportation, issued in an internal email of strong criticism from a senior Border Patrol official, came under an aggressive border-closure policy that the Trump administration deems necessary to contain The coronavirus virus spreads into the United States. But they contradict terms that the Mexican government has agreed to help enforce the order, that only Mexican children and others with adult supervision can be pushed back to Mexico after attempting to overtake them. record.
Deportation puts children from countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at risk of sending them without an adult traveling with them to a country they do not have a family relationship with. Most appear to have been made, at least initially, to Mexican child welfare agencies, who oversee shelters run by religious organizations and other private groups.
The deportations, which appear to have numbered more than 200 in the past eight months, reflect the chaos that many of the administration’s most aggressive immigration policies have put in place. In many cases, they have resulted in infant disruption between US government agencies and now, between governments of countries other than their own. For years now, the Trump administration’s handling of immigrant children has left members of families separated for months and unable to communicate with each other.
A report to the courts earlier this month that the parents of 545 such children are currently in the United States, some of them separated from their families since 2017, has yet to be identified.
Under existing diplomatic agreements and US policies, children from countries other than Mexico must be taken on flights operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the home country where they are can be reunited with the family.
Rumors of children from other countries being deported into Mexico have swirled into non-profit child welfare workers in Mexico and the US. But locating such children is difficult because of the constant reporting from Mexican government agencies.
But an email from the assistant chief of the US Border Patrol, Eduardo Sanchez, obtained by The New York Times, makes it clear that such remittances not only happened but also clearly violated US policy. States.
Mr Sanchez wrote: “We have recently identified a number of suspicious cases when Single Juveniles (SM) from countries other than Mexico were deported through ports of entry rather than is the ICE Air Operations for deportation ”.
Referring to the federal public health statute to which the government’s border closure policy applies, he continued, “Please note that if not corrected, these actions will result in operations of Title 42 is in serious danger and must be stopped immediately. Again, in all cases, an SM from a country other than Mexico should knowingly expel from Mexico. “
Brian Hastings, the Rio Grande Valley area chief of the Border Patrol, admitted in an interview that non-Mexican children had been brought back to Mexico.
If we don’t quickly return to migrants according to the law of the pandemic, “we will have a large number of infections, a great deal of migration, and again, we will fill up, a hospital. ” He said border agents were instructed to contact the Mexican consular office every time an unaccompanied child is deported.
And Mark Morgan, acting commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, admitted in a separate interview this week that such deportation would violate the agreement between Mexico and the United States. “It is not part of their policy,” Mr. Morgan said of Mexico.
The deportation policy has helped prevent overcrowding at border facilities, two officials say, leading to widespread criticism of the agency’s childcare last year.
But border agents have now been instructed to exempt most children under the age of 10 from deportation and to transfer them to U.S. shelters overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Hastings said.
The coronavirus pandemic gave the Trump administration the opportunity to enact its most stringent border restrictions. Since then, thousands of children have been rapidly deported back home after crossing the border to the United States – a departure from long-standing practices in which the children travel without an adult supervising the country. households are transferred into a US government shelter system, where they are assigned staff in charge who have worked to reunite them with US donors while their asylum cases are being viewed. review in court.
Contrary to that policy, children deported during a pandemic are held for only a short period of time at Border Patrol facilities or in hotels prior to their return to their home country, often without notice. foreshadowing the family. Some have to borrow cell phones when they arrive at the airport to find family members who might be willing to take them in.
The latest deportations add a new and potentially more devastating complication, creating even more confusion for families from Central America and elsewhere who may be trying to find their children.
It is possible that some deported children may have family members in Mexico awaiting entry into the United States, but Mexican authorities have not provided information about the children being taken to their shelters.
A Salvadoran father living in California requested anonymity because he had no papers stating he first learned that his 15-year-old daughter was deported to Mexico in August, when he received a call from the Salvadoran embassy in Ciudad Juárez.
“They said I have to calm down because she will be fine,” said the father. “I don’t know what to ask, it’s all just confusing.” His daughter has no family in Mexico, he said.
He waited in El Salvador to be approved for a visa to enter the United States under a special program for victims of sexual violence, based on what happened to her back home, he to speak. He wasn’t sure why she tried to cross the US border before she was approved to do so – he assumed it was out of fear for his own safety.
After the attorneys intervened on the girl’s behalf, claiming that her rights were violated during the deportation process, she was allowed to enter the United States and now lives in a shelter in Arizona. Her father said he is waiting for the US government’s permission to be reunited with his daughter.
“I’ve lost my mind,” he said. “This is a really stressful situation. It’s about your kids, you always want what’s best for them, but at the same time you know you can’t physically protect them or do anything right now, so that’s really frustrating. multiple. ”
U.S. Civil Liberties Union attorneys are challenging the deportation of immigrant children in federal court, claiming it violates child welfare laws, such as the Victims Protection Act Human trafficking, as well as national immigration law, requires special protections for migrant children traveling. alone.
Lee Gelernt, chief attorney in the case, said: “Even beyond the general illegal Title 42 immigration, it is illegal to deport a non-Mexican child to Mexico under immigration law.
The government has recently started to refer to children who migrate alone differently – as “single minors” and not “unaccompanied foreign children” – reinforcing the the point is that while pandemic-related border closures are in place, such children are not eligible for the legal protections that would otherwise be available to them.
According to public data, US authorities have deported more than 200,000 people since the new public health border closure went into effect, but authorities will not answer questions about how many of them. are children, as well as how many people were brought to Mexico. In December, border authorities admitted in federal court that at least 8,800 children have been deported from the United States since March.
The human rights organization’s Refugee Commission submitted a request for a public record to the Mexican authorities and received data showing that at least 208 Central American children were returned to the Mexican authorities from March 21. to June 5 this year.
Mexico’s child welfare agency did not respond to a request for comment.
Adults were also expelled during the pandemic, in relatively large numbers, allowing some of them to quickly seek entry back into the country.
To counter the repeated efforts, Mr. Hastings said, the Border Patrol had begun deporting flights into the Mexican interior of Mexican adults who attempted to enter the United States four or more times. up.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reports from McAllen, Texas.