There has been a lot written about undocumented, unaccompanied minors from countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala over the last several weeks. There has been such a surge in Central American children apprehended at the border, issues related to children from other countries attempting to cross into the U.S. without documentation have been put on the back burner.
The Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey about unaccompanied minors and published the results. The entire article can be found here, but I wanted to highlight a few key areas. One principal finding from the study is that many of the Mexican children who are apprehended at the border have attempted the act before. The article explains that the number of Mexican children attempting to cross the border is close to the number of children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, but that number is somewhat deceiving because some of the Mexican children are ones who were unsuccessful at previous attempts.
The article explains that, according to the Pew Research Center data, “out of the more than 11,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied Mexican minors during this fiscal year (October 1 through May 31), only 2,700 children (24% of all apprehensions) reported being apprehended for the first time in their lives.” It went on to say that 15% of the Mexican children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border had been apprehended at least six times.
Once you have all of the information, you may begin to look at the statistics a little bit differently than you did before. It is difficult for anyone to truly know for sure how many Mexican children attempt to cross into the U.S. without documentation, or how many times they have tried before. This is true, in part, because Mexican authorities do not have strict fingerprinting policies. As a result, U.S. numbers differ from Mexican numbers as to how many children have been apprehended at the border.
Another aspect of this issue to consider is the 2008 U.S. law that impacts unaccompanied children differently, depending on their home countries. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was signed by President George W. Bush and was implemented to help protect those who may be victims of human trafficking. The law states that unaccompanied children from countries, other than Mexico and Canada, must be afforded due process. This means that they cannot be automatically deported. However, Mexican (and Canadian) children have no such protection.
In fact, minors from Mexico can be deported to their home country “within hours of their apprehension.” Under current rules, U.S. authorities are permitted to “determine whether Mexican children have been victims of human trafficking or face some other credible fear of persecution.” If there is no threat determined, the children are taken back to the border within 72 hours.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 95 percent of “unaccompanied children from Mexico were returned almost immediately after their apprehension during the last fiscal year.”