Young migrants and asylum seekers as young as 10 and would normally be allowed to live with relatives while their cases wind through immigration courts are quickly being deported under an emergency declaration citing the coronavirus pandemic.
600 minors expelled in April alone.
Border agencies say they have to restrict asylum claims and border crossings during the pandemic to prevent the virus’s spread. Migrants’ advocates call that a pretext to dispense with federal protections for children. The expulsions are the latest administration measure aimed at preventing the entry of migrant children, following other programs such as the since-rescinded “zero-tolerance” policy that resulted in thousands of family separations.
Brenda, 16, left Guatemala in hopes of reaching the US to eventually work and help her family. Her father works on a farm, but it’s not enough. “We barely eat,” she said.
Under a 2008 anti-trafficking law and a federal court settlement known as the Flores agreement, children from countries other than Canada and Mexico must have access to legal counsel and cannot be immediately deported.
They are also supposed to be released to family in the US or otherwise held in the least restrictive setting possible. The rules are intended to prevent children from being mistreated or falling into the hands of criminals.