Washington, D.C.—Today WOLA releases the results of an investigation into the treatment of unaccompanied Mexican migrant children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. Every year, the Border Patrol apprehends approximately 15,000 unaccompanied Mexican kids. According to an UNHCR report, nearly 60 percent of Mexican children reference violence as a reason for leaving. Yet, less than 5 percent get a chance to make their case before an immigration judge to determine whether they have a valid claim for protection in the United States.
WOLA is releasing today an investigative video and report on this issue. Through interviews with migrant children, Border Patrol, Mexican authorities, and experts, WOLA’s video and report show that unless Mexican children can prove to a Border Patrol agent that they face a credible risk of falling victim to persecution or trafficking, they are sent straight back home, without a chance for due process. In contrast, according to U.S. law, migrant children from other countries[i] are automatically entitled to an immigration hearing. Through the voice of the children, the video also demonstrates why Border Patrol is not properly equipped to assess whether these children should be referred for further screening.
“The U.S. government has a responsibility to make sure these children are properly screened and protected. Each kid’s story should be heard,” said Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate for the Washington Office on Latin America. “All children deserve the right to protections from violence. At a minimum Border Patrol should be better trained to screen these children and detect victims of trafficking, persecution, or other forms of abuse,” said Meyer.
WOLA’s report offers a series of recommendations both for the United States and Mexico to better protect Mexican children fleeing violence, including additional investment in violence prevention programs in Mexico.
“Both Mexico and the United States are failing to help and protect these children fleeing violence, often returning them to environments that could put their lives at risk,” said Meyer.
WOLA encourages news organizations to embed this video in their online portals and to share through social media.
[i] Except Mexico and Canada for being a contiguous country.