Trump ramps up expulsions of migrant youth (Reports).
Young migrants and asylum seekers swim across the Rio Grande and clamber into the dense brush of Texas. Many are teens who left Central America on their own; others were sent along by parents from refugee camps in Mexico. They are as young as 10.
Under United States law, they would normally be allowed to live with relatives while their cases wind through immigration courts. Instead, the administration of US President Donald Trump is quickly expelling them under an emergency declaration citing the coronavirus pandemic, with 600 minors expelled in April alone.
The expulsions are the latest administration measure aimed at preventing the entry of migrant children, following other programmes such as the since-rescinded “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in thousands of family separations.
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.
In interviews with The Associated Press news agency, two recently expelled teens said border agents told them they would not be allowed to request asylum. They were placed in cells, fingerprinted and given a medical exam. Then, after four days, they were flown back to their home country of Guatemala. The AP is withholding the teens’ last names to protect their privacy.
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 to cover the family’s expenses.
“We barely eat,” she said.
Her family borrowed $13,000 to pay a smuggler and months later, she crossed irregulary. Authorities later took her into custody in April at a Texas stash house, she said.
“I did ask to talk to my brother because he wanted to get a lawyer, because he wanted to fight for my case,” Brenda said. “But they told me they were not letting people talk to anyone. No matter how much I fought, they were not letting anyone stay.”
She is now under quarantine at her family’s home.
Similarly, Osvaldo, 17, said agents would not let him call his father. He was held with other children in a cold room and issued a foil blanket as well as a new mask and pair of gloves each of the four days he was in custody.
Someone took his temperature before he was deported, but he was not tested for the coronavirus until he was back in Guatemala. Osvaldo was given no immigration paperwork, just the medical report from his examination.
“I thought they would help me or let me fight my case,” Osvaldo said, “but no.”
A 10-year-old boy and his mother, whom the AP is not identifying because she fears retribution for speaking publicly, spent months at a squalid camp in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, Texas, waiting for their immigration court dates under the Trump administration programme known as “Remain in Mexico”.
When she lost an initial decision, the mother decided her son would be better off temporarily with her brother in the US. She watched him swim across the Rio Grande.
The woman expected he would be be treated the same as before, when such children were picked up by the US Border Patrol and taken to Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) facilities for eventual placement with a sponsor, usually a relative.
But the mother heard nothing until six days later, when her family received a call from a shelter in Honduras.
“They had thrown him out to Honduras,” she said. “We didn’t know anything.”
The boy now lives with a family member in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. Another relative has agreed to take him back to the family’s rural village, if the mother returns to care for him. But she fears her former partner, who abused and threatened both of them.
“He doesn’t want to eat. All he does is cry,” the woman said. “I never imagined they would send him back there.”