The rate of border-crossing minors has tripled since 2008 to the point that in 2012, unaccompanied minors comprised 79% of all juvenile border crossers.
This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress
By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee
On Tuesday, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) released a report confirming that 13,454 unaccompanied Mexican minors under the age of 18 were deported from the U.S. in 2012, according to Animal Politico.
Last year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 6,548 accompanied and 24,481 unaccompanied children, a total that includes Mexican minors. The rate of border-crossing minors tripled since 2008 to the point that in 2012, unaccompanied minors comprised 79 percent of all juvenile border crossers.
Once apprehended, minors are placed with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an U.S. Health and Human Services agency that takes custody of minors while their cases are being adjudicated. While the majority of minors from Mexico are returned without being detained, some children are kept in adult detention centers. In 2012, those children spent anywhere between three days to more than an year. Indeed, over 1,300 children spent a combined one hundred years in adult detention centers last year.
Whereas the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a policy of detaining children in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and needs, they have not always followed through on those orders. One four-year old child was subjected to freezing conditions.
When they do make it to immigration court, the odds are stacked against immigrant children wanting to stay in the U.S. Although immigrants with legal representation are nine times more likely to win their case, less than fifty percent of children have legal representation. In fact, immigrants are not entitled to public defenders in immigration court. It is not unusual for a toddler or a six-year-old to appear in front of the judge without a lawyer.
The majority of the children who are given visas to stay in the United States are not from Mexico, but from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This is partially because Mexican children are quickly deported by bus or plane to any one of the southern border towns.
Photo: AP File/David Maung