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Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors

August 26, 2011 Comments off

Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors (PDF)
Source: Appleseed

Every year tens of thousands of Mexican minors, many of whom are vulnerable to trafficking or other forms of abuse, make the perilous journey north and attempt to cross the border into the United States. Until late 2008, the United States, as a matter of policy and practice, turned around any unaccompanied Mexican children caught at or near the border with little or no evaluation of the risks they faced upon return to Mexico. In December 2008, Congress changed this “revolving door” policy. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 (the TVPRA) mandated that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interview every unaccompanied Mexican minor in order to make the determination that the child (i) is not a potential victim of trafficking, (ii) has no possible claim to asylum, and (iii) can (and does) voluntarily agree to go back home. Unless all these questions are answered in the affirmative, the child is not to be immediately returned to Mexico, but rather must remain to be evaluated for a claim to protection in the United States. The TVPRA further provided that the United States ensure safe repatriation of all minors, including unaccompanied Mexican minors, primarily through repatriation programs and bilateral agreements to be negotiated by the Department of State (DOS).

The TVPRA also set standards for the care and custody of unaccompanied minors in the United States, required that federal agencies create programs to prevent the exploitation of unaccompanied minors, and provided more child-friendly procedures for child asylum claims.

Appleseed and Appleseed México (together, “Appleseed”) undertook this investigation to determine the extent to which the TVPRA has improved the screening and protection of unaccompanied Mexican minors at the border and after repatriation. More than two years after its passage, the promise of the TVPRA remains unfulfilled. While U.S. policy has changed, at the border the “revolving door” continues to be the practice. Moreover, U.S. attention to unaccompanied children has focused on children from Central America and elsewhere, when the vast majority of unaccompanied children crossing U.S. borders are Mexican.

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