The United States and Mexico have returned tens of thousands of migrant children traveling alone to their countries, denying them access to asylum and often putting their lives in danger, Amnesty International said in a report (PDF) published Friday.
According to the UK-based rights organization report, the US has returned the majority of Mexican unaccompanied minors, while Mexico has expelled most of the Central American children who entered its homes. borders – without effectively assessing the dangers they might face.
“What we found is that the governments of the United States and Mexico are returning tens of thousands of unaccompanied migrant children to their countries of origin without adequate screening for the harm they may suffer there,” said Brian. Griffey, Amnesty Regional Researcher for North America. Al Jazeera.
The report: “Pushed into harm’s way: forced return of unaccompanied children to danger by the USA and Mexico” found that the United States deported 10,270 unaccompanied Mexican children from November 2020 to April 2021. The figure represents 95% of all arrivals, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Mexican authorities have turned back 3,300 migrant children from Central America who arrived through their southern borders in 2020, according to the report. In 2019, Mexico returned 12,000 minors.
Amnesty researchers interviewed dozens of migrant children who said they were forced into dangerous situations after being denied asylum in the United States or Mexico.
Joe Biden’s administration, which took office in January, continued a policy put in place by his predecessor Donald Trump to deport the majority of asylum-seeking migrants at the US-Mexico border under a health provision called ” Title 42 “.
But the Biden administration exempted children traveling alone – the majority of whom are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – from deportations, arguing that returning children is cruel and could put them in danger.
The United States has allowed migrant children to enter the country and be joined by parents or godparents while they file their asylum claims. Most say they are fleeing persistent poverty and widespread gang violence.
But US anti-trafficking law exempted Mexican children from the right to access asylum in the United States, according to the 50-page report.
“US border authorities conduct superficial and ineffective screening of unaccompanied Mexican children to detect risks of harm or trafficking, then repatriate the children without ever placing them in immigration proceedings,” according to the report.
The findings come amid continued pressure on the Biden administration to limit the number of migrants crossing the southern border into the United States.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this week to meet with leaders of the two countries to coordinate security and development efforts aimed at reducing immigration from the region.
And on Tuesday, Harris oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Mexico, which included a commitment to strengthen joint security cooperation and tackle human trafficking networks.
“What this means in practice – it’s an understatement to intercept the same channels unaccompanied children use from Central America to the United States,” Griffey said.
“There has to be the political will to allow children to pursue their immigration applications to the United States,” he said.
On Wednesday, CBP released statistics showing more than 180,000 people made their way to the US-Mexico border during May, a slight increase from the previous month.
But statistics showed the number of children traveling alone fell in May to 10,765, from 13,940 in April. The numbers, while still high, were down sharply from March’s 18,951 figures.