News   /   IN-DEPTH   /   Human Rights   /   Editor's Choice

Unaccompanied migrant children still detained at US border

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Migrants arrive at Leona Vicario Migrant Shelter to be tested for Covid-19 before entering the United States. 20 March 2020. (AFP)

A record number of children have been arriving at the US Mexico border without their parents. Unaccompanied immigrant children are streaming into the United States by crossing the border, raising concerns about human rights, as well as security, both inside the country and abroad.

The daily apprehension of children is spinning out of control. Many are kept in camps that were not made for children, in unclear conditions.

The Biden administration is trying to deter immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, mostly escaping violence in South and Central America, from entering the US.

However, it is allowing some unaccompanied minors to enter.

The record influx of people has created a rare opportunity for human smuggling gangs.

If the parents are in Central America living in poverty, how can they get to Mexico? That's why so many children are fleeing in the first place, because they see the poverty that their parents live in.

Mayra Harrera, Honduran Migrant

The crisis at the border is a telltale sign of the human rights situation in the United States, putting kids in cages or the so called migrant facilities shows the depth of US politicians disregard for children who actually never chose to enter the country on their own.

The Biden administration along with the Mexican government need to disrupt the cartels that are frankly the only ones benefiting from the situation as it currently stands, and then here in the US, the Biden administration needs to stand up the infrastructure in terms of facilities, the processes, and then, ultimately, the capacity so that these children can go through a process that is safe, legal and humane.

Ali Noorani, CEO NIMF

Politicizing the issue and taking advantage of the influx is now on the agenda of those seeking to consolidate their grip on power. Biden's nemesis, namely congressional Republicans, argue that he is ignoring the crisis, pretending that a Republican president like Trump would have performed better.

In reality Biden has ended the Trump era practice of expelling immigrant children but maintained expulsion of immigrant families and single adults.

The United States promotes itself as a protector of human rights across the world. Yet today, unaccompanied children are the most vulnerable victims of the influx at the border. How do you assess the administration's performance in regard to human rights and the situation at the southern border?

Yeah, I would say that the border itself is designed to be a human rights violation. So, it doesn't matter who arrives to the US southern border, in this case, unaccompanied minors. The way the very way of the kind of enforcement apparatus it's been developed over many, many, many years. By its very design it forces people into really vulnerable places, it stops people from being able to cross borders, it incarcerates people.

And it's in its very essence a human rights violation. So, it contradicts this idea of like what is going on in the border now or what's been going on the border, you know, a year ago or what's been going on the on the US southern border for decades actually, it's a constant human rights abuse to the people trying to cross the border. And so that kind of contradicts this idea of the United States being this kind of Global Messenger of Human Rights.

Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of Border Patrol Nation

The new spike in the number of crossings denotes the tragedy for many families and children. For the Biden administration, it has different implications, including partial bending of the wall.

The Customs and Border Protection service would normally receive unaccompanied children first, until the Department of Health and Human Services can provide enough space to accept them in one of their shelters.

Why is it more humane to take these kids to put them in Border Patrol facilities that were not meant for children, oftentimes for many more days than the legal limit?

Fox News Host

Chris, that is, That is not what the prior administration did, you will forgive me forgive me, the prior administration did expel children, did fly children to countries where from which they were fleeing, countries that did not have the capacity to administer asylum claims, countries that suffer tremendous violence, poverty, corruption, and other infirmities, so to suggest that the prior administration handled the needs of children in a humane way is just false.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

The maximum amount of time a child is legally permitted to be held in border patrol custody is 72 hours, but 1000s of unaccompanied children had been held in custody for longer, with 2226 been held for more than five days, and 823 being held for more than 10 days, according to some reports.

I think I do think that the structure of anti immigration policies started in Obama's administration's when when President Barack Hussein, he exposed, more or less to 500,000 to 600,000 people every year. So Trump radicalises his speech, radicalises his policies, and Biden cannot dismantle this, or he will preserve this to, I would say, say hello to Texan Republicans who were there because he needed support.

Lima Rocha, Professor of International Studies, Unisinos

Early summer is usually the peak of the migrant’s arrival with the steep rise in the number of detentions, more asylum seekers are expected to arrive. Relaxation of enforcement at the border is denied by authorities. However, it plays a major role in the rise in number.

There are a lot of kids who come without their parents, and many arrive without anything at all, because they've been robbed along the way, I even had to share a room with one who was from Guatemala, they put him with us, so he wouldn't cry so much, because so many of them cry when their parents don't come for them. It's terrible to see.

Mayra Harrera, Honduran Migrant

Two major hurricanes last year as well as the Coronavirus pandemic have made it impossible for many to stay in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.

On the other hand, the situation is adding more stress to the US system and overwhelming the country's resources, which had already been strained due to the COVID 19 pandemic. What role do hurricanes and the pandemic play, and what should the Biden administration do?

What the Biden administration needs to do is probably look at a number of things. They're the kind of enforcement that makes children vulnerable at our border needs to be addressed. The reasons why people are coming in the first place. For example, right right now a number of people that are coming from Honduras, particularly are saying that the hurricanes, and if you remember there were two catastrophic category four hurricanes that hit the Honduran and and Nicaraguan coasts in 2020 those hurricanes are what caused huge devastation and displacement, and a lot of people are saying that's one of the reasons why, so you have, you have a climate situation, really, And in some of the people that are coming up at this point. And then you look at how the United, you know, if, if that's if that's the case then, how do you deal with climate change, that would be the sort of questions, you would have to why so many people are coming, why so many children are coming. But what seems to be the course of action in the United States, and it doesn't even matter what party it is, is as to continue to do the border enforcement. So by no means under the Biden administration is the border open right there's this, there's this kind of narrative hat playing out in the media at this point saying, oh, there's an open border. There is not.

Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of Border Patrol Nation

The evolving situation on the US Mexico border comes with reports of kids who have not seen sunlight in days and others often going days without taking showers, some of the kids sleep in bunk beds, some of them three bunks high; still better than  overcrowded facilities and children sleeping on the ground.

What they are hearing is that you can now come in the United States, which you can as a kid, and so they're going to keep coming, and the problem here is that the Biden administration, on day one, made about a half dozen changes, and since then have made several more, that encourage more people to come to the border, and they didn't put anything in place to deal with it, either another policy to discourage people from coming, which the President says he wants to do. Or, to put the preparations in place, including the shelters,and the holding facilities that are that have been so criticised and I saw some of them the other day, kids are overcrowded. They're in situations you would never want your kid to be in.

Rob Portman, Senator(R), Ohio

There are also sponsors for the children, typically a family member in the US, who has to be located so that their identity and relationship to the child is verified. Meanwhile, the optic of the unaccompanied children presenting themselves at the border remains a political matter. But how do the children feel?

That keeping children in custody is, is very, it's terrible for the children, It's been shown time and time again, infamously during the Trump administration, particularly during the 2018 zero tolerance policy that the Trump administration implemented. The world could see like what was happening with the children. The sort of things that happened, the tension, even the abuses by the US Border Patrol, but those sorts of things have been happening for a long time. There's a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, that looked at short term Border Patrol detention effects on kids from 2009 to 2014, so maybe that's the problem, the President Barack Obama years.

Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of Border Patrol Nation

The highly politicised influx of children is contributing to the powerplay underway in the United States. High ranking Republicans rush to blame, particularly the Biden administration, for the crisis. The administration's response has basically been "we're doing all we can".

For the first two and a half months of this year they've made about 110,000 apprehensions, including in those apprehensions are 800 criminal aliens, criminal aliens who have previously been arrested and exported from the United States 78 sex offenders and 62 gang members.

Greg Abbott, Texas Governor (R)

At the same time, the administration is trying to send a message to the future refugees, asking them not to come to the US. The GOP meanwhile considers the Biden administration, a big welcome sign to all the migrants seeking to enter through the Mexico border. Political steam has been building for two months since President Biden tackled some of Trumps harsh border policies, but the history of US aggression towards Central America is older than that,

The Reagan administration, Bush the father administration, they almost neutralised all their opposition in Central America. They occupied El Salvador, they occupied Honduras, they almost occupied Guatemala, and they attacked Nicaragua, so the social crisis in Central America is a fruit of US policies during the 80s, that's effect. So Republicans must be proud of what what the, what's happening now because they promoted this terror in the 80s.

Lima Rocha, Professor of International Studies, Unisinos

The crisis at the border gave former President Trump an opportunity to promote his own immigration policies. Trump said he proudly gave secure borders to Biden, despite the current situation. Trump suggested that he created a smooth running system on autopilot, which Biden has now broken.

This is a respite shelter in McAllen, Texas, near the US Mexican border. All of the people here, families and young children, arrived recently in the United States, many of them crossing the Rio Grande de river with their families, they were apprehended by border patrol and sent to a detention centre nearby, and then they come here for processing. This group here arrived in the morning, they'll get all their papers processed, they've all had COVID tests and if they're negative, they're allowed to come to this shelter for a few nights, maybe one or two days, each group over here has stayed here, they will move on to family members or sponsor families in the United States but clearly, the numbers are surging here.

24Hr News, Canada

Trump's anti immigration policy was a centerpiece of his 2016 election campaign, and is now a major issue as he seeks reelection as the US president. He promised to build a wall on the US border with Mexico to physically stop the inflow of migrants, but failed to fulfill that pledge. So what can Biden do and will it make a difference?

Biden claims that he's going to reunite families who are separated under, under the Trump administration, he's going to review, if not reverse, what is known as the remain in Mexico programme, which has people who come to the US border looking for asylum and makes them wait on the other side of the border in Mexico, and there's been all kinds of problems with that. So on that level Biden's policies almost seemed revolutionary in a sense to Trump. On another level, and this is the level that I do want to speak to, they are very much the same. If you look at the US border, if it's, it's, it's been under a certain strategy now for 25 years.

Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of Border Patrol Nation

During a similar record influx of unaccompanied minors in 2014, the Obama administration dispatched FEMA for help, something the Biden administration is resorting to as well. But violation of the non American's rights is nothing new.

Children are only supposed to be in border patrol custody long enough for them to be processed, put into the system, book date if you will, and then move down to HHS shelter so so that workforce right now, unfortunately, are stressed out, overwhelmed, and they're there, it's backed up, they have to get these facilities, right, they have to move these children into HHS custody in 72 hours, and they're not able to do that because we are encouraging as a country right now we're encouraging people to send or bring a child to the border because you're getting a free pass essentially right that's what happened in 2014.

Ronald Vitiello, Former Acting Director, ICE

Biden's failure to handle the situaation is being heard loud and clear by human smugglers and those in search of a supposedly better life than in Central America. The crisis at the southern US border is the tip of the iceberg, as many kids have already been detained by the Mexican government, never getting the chance to arrive at the US border. There are also the human smugglers.

What is your take on the human trafficking business reportedly booming, these days, across the US Mexico border?

Human trafficking and drug dealing, in Central America in Mexico, It is a huge business, huge business. It wouldn't be operated without the commit, and the corruption of Mexican authorities. But also, it wouldnt be occuring without the complacency and control, the coordination of US agencies, it says like DEA, you can't even imagine to worldwide drug dealing, without DEA administrating it, controlling the cartels, opposing one cartel against the other, and eventually making profits of it.

Lima Rocha, Professor of International Studies, Unisinos

Every child story at the border is a unique one, but with a big portion of similarities. The kids are victims of the adults’ behavior and decision making. Deprived of compassion, and the presence of their families, they enter a new environment, with a new language and new faces.

One of the challenges we knew early on, was the number of migrants, so I think that's part of reason why FEMA was asked to step in is to help speed this process up, allow the agency to get caught up with the children, and then build a system that would then be able to surge and move faster through the system.

Craig Fugate, Former Director, Florida Division of Emergency

The children with pressing needs must not be considered intruders. Living under US Border Patrol custody must be intolerable, especially for the really small children. Contending with a widening emergency that the Biden team views as a stressful challenge rather than a crisis has been challenging for the young administration. Is it a crisis or not, and regardless of the terminology are Republicans taking advantage of this?

They're taking on the new administration for sure, they, it seems like the Republicans are just looking for any sort of weakness on and in a way, manufacturing, a crisis like by using the word crisis there, they're saying that there's open borders with a Biden administration which is patently not true. And, and so, yes, it seems like this is, this is a key point for the Republicans, that was, as we know, that was a huge central foundational point of the Donald Trump administration during his campaigns.

Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of Border Patrol Nation

Overcrowding and harsh conditions in federal facilities have to be addressed. The administration is accused of hiding the reality of the situation by not allowing the media to show certain places.

Can the power hungry steer clear of the politics and just act in favour of children?

They are 15, 16, 17 years old, all from Guatemala. They say they took 2, 3, or 4 weeks to get to the United States. We asked them if they had any idea about the changes in the Biden administration, in terms of policy for unaccompanied minors coming to the US. They said they had no idea they said that they were coming to the United States, because they wanted a better life for themselves. And it was too dangerous in Guatemala. The President is scrambling to manage the growing humanitarian and political challenge which could end up undermining his legislative agenda. The surge in border crossers is reportedly troubling the administration, as the country's facilities keep working beyond capacity. Is it a crisis or not, some are still discussing that, and can the Biden administration handle it?

CNBC, Overnight Mission, Texas

 What should be done to address the root cause of the problem?

From the United States perspective when you look at Central America, you have to look at US policy in Central America, you have to look at US militarization in Central America, you have to look at even the historic support of the US supporting of dictatorships in Central America, you have to look at, US economic policy in Central America, you have to look at US extractive industries in Central America, and see how that influences how people are people are also being displaced. And when you when you like start getting to the root reasons, and when you see like a farmer who's marginalised or is poor, can't make it, and then a drought hits as that's climate induced. And, you know, those sorts of things, or persons working in a US factory making less than a livable wage. All those things are are huge, so the displacement when you deal with a displacement you start dealing with all the, all the branches of what what of what people migrate under, or are trafficked under, it seems to me those are the sorts of issues that need to be addressed.

Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of Border Patrol Nation

During his 2020 campaign days, the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, had vowed to fix the country's broken immigration policy, Something that is yet to materialise. Meanwhile, the situation appears to be getting out of control as the administration faces caravans of immigrants deemed illegal.

We're in the middle of a crisis on our southern border. The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central America is harming both Mexico and the United States, and I believe the steps we will take, starting right now, will improve the safety in both of our countries, going to be very very good for Mexico. A nation without borders, is not a nation. Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders.

Former US President, Donald J Trump

The Trump administration cracked down on immigration more than any other administration in recent history, but the Biden team is also refusing to acknowledge the depth of the crisis, and secretly pursues the same agenda which has set a record in the number of detentions and expulsions, as well as a boom in human trafficking, into the country. How the situation will pan out remains to be seen.


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku