Detention + Deportation

US border patrol violated agency rules in deporting thousands of children

US Customs and Border Protection deported unaccompanied children from Mexico and Canada without documenting how they knew minors would be safe

US border patrol agents violated agency rules in deporting thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children from 2009 to 2014, according to a federal audit released this week.

The US Government Accountability Office audit said that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) repatriated 93% of unaccompanied children under age 14 from Mexico and Canada without documenting how they decided that the children would be safe when they return to their home countries.

Jennifer Podkul, a senior program officer for the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, is one of several people to have questioned how effective the CBP process is in earlier reports.

“The part that is illegal is not that they have not been giving them documentation, the part that’s illegal is that they have not been adequately screening them according to the law,” Podkul said.

The GAO report was released on Tuesday, the same day that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said it had released about 200 Central Americans in just over a week as it sped up the interview process used to determine whether those people would be in danger if repatriated. Advocates like Human Rights First say asylum seekers should generally not be held in detention centers.

Detention centers have been overwhelmed by the recent spike in unaccompanied child migrants, who primarily come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and cross the Mexico border to get into the US.

Last year, Barack Obama said the border crossing of more than 47,000 unaccompanied children that year was an “urgent humanitarian situation”.

There was a vast reduction in the amount of unaccompanied children who made it to the border in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period last year, according to a study released by Pew Research Center in April. This, as Mexico deports a record number of Central American immigrant children.

The screening process used to determine whether Mexican children could be endangered by being repatriated has been a long-held concern for immigration rights groups. While children under 14 from most countries go before a judge to have their safety determined, Mexican and Canadian children are exempt from this rule and are instead asked a set of questions by a border patrol officer or agent.

“CBP just does not have the training, the understanding of humanitarian protection, to make the assessment of these children from Mexico before sending them back to their home countries,” said Greg Chen, director of advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Chen said that the AILA’s primary concern is that the existing law assumes that an unaccompanied child can give a sufficient response to the questions while at a border patrol station, where they have likely been for a short time, and could be hungry, dehydrated and cold. “Can that child actually tell an agent, realistically, that he or she is afraid – and answer those questions well?” Chen said.

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, border agents try to determine whether the child is a victim of trafficking, could become a victim of trafficking, has a fear of persecution and is competent to make decisions about their situation.

But, as the GAO report shows, there is little documentation to show that this process is being completed.

While children 14 and under are presumed to typically be unable to make such a determination, there is no documentation for how these decisions were made for 93% of Mexican and Canadian children detained from the fiscal years 2009 to 2014. In that period, the Department of Homeland Security apprehended more than 200,000 unaccompanied children.

Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said that the GAO report was troubling, but not surprising.

“It’s common sense that in order for CBP to meet its obligation under law, it has to be reporting what its agents are doing,” Tan said. “And of course, the fact that they aren’t, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to hold them accountable to what Congress requires them to do.”

The murkiness of the documentation standards is exemplified in part of the GAO report which said that a CBP memorandum from 2009 instructs agents to document how they determined whether someone could make an independent decision on form I-213. This form includes biographical information about the immigrant and their encounter with federal officials. But, the GAO’s analysis of 180 cases from 2014 led it to estimate that none of the 15,531 forms for unaccompanied Mexican children from fiscal year 2014 included documentation of how they determined a child’s ability to make an independent decision.

Rebecca Gambler, the GAO’s director of homeland security and justice, said in an email: “It is not a legal or statutory requirement; rather it is something required by CBP policy.”

CBP did not respond to an emailed request for comment. But in the report, the Department of Homeland Security said it concurs with 12 recommendations the GAO handed down in the report, including looking into how it can add to its process a way to document an unaccompanied child’s independent decision-making ability.

“We feel like this is a huge step forward,” said Podkul, who said this is the first time the government has agreed to speak with NGOs about the documentation issue.

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A Year on, Children Caught on Border Struggle to Stay, Adapt

JULY 4, 2015, 11:13 A.M. E.D.T.

LOS ANGELES — At 1-year-old, a wide-eyed, restless Joshua Tinoco faces the prospect of deportation to his native Honduras, one of tens of thousands of children who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last year.

While his teenage mother has been allowed to stay in the U.S. and seek a green card under a federal program for abused, abandoned and neglected children, Joshua has been classified as an enforcement priority by immigration prosecutors, his lawyer said.

“I fought so much for him to be here with me and now they yank him from my hands,” said Dunia Bueso, the boy’s now-18-year-old mother. “How is the child going to go there alone, and with no one to take care of him?”

Today, like Joshua, many of the children who arrived from Central America still have cases churning through the immigration courts and don’t know what the outcome will be. Those fleeing gang violence and domestic strife have applied for asylum or the government’s program for abandoned children and are waiting for an answer.

Those who have won the right to stay in the country still face challenges in reuniting with family they haven’t seen in years, attending school in a foreign language and coping with the trauma they fled or debts owed to relatives or the smugglers who brought them.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arrived on the border in the last fiscal year, and since then another 18,000, government statistics show. Immigration courts have fast-tracked the cases in a bid to stem a growing backlog.

It’s difficult, however, to know how many are winning; so far, roughly 6,200 of the children who arrived since July have been issued deportation orders, mostly for failing to attend court, but as many asylum applications were filed by children between October and March.

Immigrant advocates fear too many children are hard-pressed to find lawyers and say many are bona fide asylum seekers fleeing gang violence and rape. But border enforcement supporters doubt those handed deportation orders will be sent home as the Obama administration would face political backlash from putting children on a plane, especially when their family is here.

“Once the kids were let into the United States, the game was up,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which wants more limits on immigration.

Bueso and Joshua were both treated as unaccompanied children because she was a minor when they arrived at the border. Bueso can’t believe the United States would make her send her son somewhere no one will care for him; Joshua’s father is not involved in his life, she said, and her grandmother is ill.

While busing through Mexico with her infant son was difficult, Bueso said things are looking up now that she can stay. She is living with her uncle in a Los Angeles neighborhood lined with liquor stores and bail bond businesses, where she is attending school for the first time since she was 10.

While obtaining legal status is a huge relief for many of the children, it doesn’t solve all of their problems, especially those still running from memories of violence.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, another teen relishes her newfound safety from the drug traffickers who abducted her on her way home from school in Guatemala at age 16, held her for weeks in the forest and repeatedly raped her until a ransom secured her release. She now has asylum, but sleeps no more than two hours at a time each night due to near constant nightmares, making it difficult to focus in school.

“I remember something, and my dreams kill me,” she said. The Associated Press does not name sexual assault victims.

Children reuniting with family they haven’t seen in years may have a hard time adjusting, as well as those staying with distant relatives or family friends who expect them to pay their way. Some teens strike out on their own or may wind up in a youth shelter.

In Southern California, Marvin Velasco, now 15, was kicked out of a family friend’s home after the man didn’t want to feed him. The Guatemalan teen, who arrived on the border last fall after his parents had sent him to work selling clothes instead of school, sought help from a local church, and a woman there took him in.

In Central Florida, many teens have jobs picking oranges and berries in the fields to cover living costs or pay off smugglers, and few attend school, said Kira Romero-Craft, director of the children’s legal program at Americans for Immigrant Justice, a nonprofit immigration law firm.

The U.S. government agency that screens sponsors before releasing children to their custody doesn’t track how often family relationships break down. But officials recently started a hotline for kids to call if they run into trouble or have nowhere to stay.

Immigration lawyers say they expect more rulings on children’s deportation cases to start coming this summer and fall. Whether that will translate into more children returning to their countries remains unknown.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they reach out to children with deportation orders whose cases are considered a priority and encourage them to follow the court’s instructions, but that only works if they can find them.

So far this fiscal year, the agency has sent 1,325 unaccompanied children back to their countries, mostly boys in their mid-late teens, government statistics show. Most were in the government’s custody since arriving here or asked to go home, officials said, adding that younger children usually traveled with a teen parent or elder sibling.

More than 95 percent of children who arrived on the border last fiscal year were released to family or other sponsors, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

So were Joshua and his mother, who were flown to California after a few weeks at a Texas shelter and released to the custody of an uncle. In June, the boy’s lawyer asked an immigration judge to put his case on hold, especially since Bueso can seek a green card for him in a few years.

For now, Bueso and her uncle must keep going to immigration court hearings to determine the boy’s fate. Joshua, who refused to sit still during his last court appearance, has been allowed to stay home.

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Niños inmigrantes en EEUU aún sin destino


A year after border surge, migrant children fight to stay and adapt in the U.S.

Published July 04, 2015

| Fox News Latino

At 1-year-old, a wide-eyed, restless Joshua Tinoco faces the prospect of deportation to his native Honduras, one of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last year.

While his teenage mother has been allowed to stay in the U.S. and seek a green card under a federal program for abused, abandoned and neglected children, Joshua has been classified as an enforcement priority by immigration prosecutors, his lawyer said.

“I fought so much for him to be here with me and now they yank him from my hands,” said Dunia Bueso, the boy’s now-18-year-old mother. “How is the child going to go there alone, and with no one to take care of him?”

Today, like Joshua, many of the children who arrived from Central America still have cases churning through the immigration courts and don’t know what the outcome will be. Those fleeing gang violence and domestic strife have applied for asylum or the government’s program for abandoned children and are waiting for an answer.

Those who have won the right to stay in the country still face challenges in reuniting with family they haven’t seen in years, attending school in a foreign language and coping with the trauma they fled or debts owed to relatives or the smugglers who brought them.

More than 57,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arrived on the border in the last fiscal year, and since then another 18,000, government statistics show. Immigration courts have fast-tracked the cases in a bid to stem a growing backlog.

It’s difficult, however, to know how many are winning; so far, roughly 6,200 of the children who arrived since July have been issued deportation orders, mostly for failing to attend court, but as many asylum applications were filed by children between October and March.

Immigrant advocates fear too many children are hard-pressed to find lawyers and say many are bona fide asylum seekers fleeing gang violence and rape. But border enforcement supporters doubt those handed deportation orders will be sent home as the Obama administration would face political backlash from putting children on a plane, especially when their family is here.

“Once the kids were let into the United States, the game was up,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which wants more limits on immigration.

Bueso can’t believe the United States would make her send her son somewhere no one will care for him; Joshua’s father is not involved in his life, she said, and her grandmother is ill.

While busing through Mexico with her infant son was difficult, Bueso said things are looking up now that she can stay. She is living with her uncle in a Los Angeles neighborhood lined with liquor stores and bail bond businesses, where she is attending school for the first time since she was 10.

While obtaining legal status is a huge relief for many of the children, it doesn’t solve all of their problems, especially those still running from memories of violence.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, another teen relishes her newfound safety from the drug traffickers who abducted her on her way home from school in Guatemala at age 16, held her for weeks in the forest and repeatedly raped her until a ransom secured her release. She now has asylum, but sleeps no more than two hours at a time each night due to near constant nightmares, making it difficult to focus in school.

“I remember something, and my dreams kill me,” she said. The Associated Press does not name sexual assault victims.

Children reuniting with family they haven’t seen in years may have a hard time adjusting, as well as those staying with distant relatives or family friends who expect them to pay their way. Some teens strike out on their own or may wind up in a youth shelter.

In Southern California, Marvin Velasco, now 15, was kicked out of a family friend’s home after the man didn’t want to feed him. The Guatemalan teen, who arrived on the border last fall after his parents had sent him to work selling clothes instead of school, sought help from a local church, and a woman there took him in.

In Central Florida, many teens have jobs picking oranges and berries in the fields to cover living costs or pay off smugglers, and few attend school, said Kira Romero-Craft, director of the children’s legal program at Americans for Immigrant Justice, a nonprofit immigration law firm.

The U.S. government agency that screens sponsors before releasing children to their custody doesn’t track how often family relationships break down. But officials recently started a hotline for kids to call if they run into trouble or have nowhere to stay.

Immigration lawyers say they expect more rulings on children’s deportation cases to start coming this summer and fall. Whether that will translate into more children returning to their countries remains unknown.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they reach out to children with deportation orders whose cases are considered a priority and encourage them to follow the court’s instructions, but that only works if they can find them.

So far this fiscal year, the agency has sent 1,325 unaccompanied children back to their countries, mostly boys in their mid-late teens, government statistics show. Most were in the government’s custody since arriving here or asked to go home, officials said, adding that younger children usually traveled with a teen parent or elder sibling.

More than 95 percent of children who arrived on the border last fiscal year were released to family or other sponsors, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

So were Joshua and his mother, who were flown to California after a few weeks at a Texas shelter. In June, the boy’s lawyer asked an immigration judge to put his case on hold, especially since Bueso can seek a green card for him in a few years.

For now, Bueso and her uncle must keep going to immigration court hearings to determine the boy’s fate. Joshua, who refused to sit still during his last court appearance, has been allowed to stay home.”

TO CONTINUE READING CLICK ON THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE! 🙂

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