The Biden administration reversed a Trump policy and is no longer expelling illegal immigrant children from Central America who show up at the border without parents — but children from Mexico who show up in the same condition are being deported, according to a new analysis.
Amnesty International USA figures nearly 10,000 children have been ousted by the Biden administration under the disparate treatment, raising questions about the new president’s insistence that he wouldn’t expel kids who are known in government-speak as Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UACs.
The Mexican children are supposed to be screened. If they’ve been trafficked or face the prospect of harm back home, they are supposed to be allowed to stay, like the Central American children. But in reality, the screenings are “superficial and ineffective,” Amnesty said In a new report being released Friday.
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, most unaccompanied juveniles who jump the border are required to be quickly processed and released to the federal Health and Human Services Department, which then seeks sponsors to hold them while their immigration cases are proceeding.
But the TVPRA says juveniles from countries contiguous to the U.S. — Mexico and Canada, though in practice that means almost exclusively Mexico — are treated differently.
Amnesty said about 50,000 UACs had crossed the border since Mr. Biden took office. About 20% of those are Mexican, and 95% of those are being expelled, which works out to 9,500 children.
Amnesty said Mexico is also blocking Central American children trying to reach the U.S., shipping them back south without giving them a chance to reach family already living — almost always without legal status — in the U.S.
A new law in Mexico requires that the children be held in special shelters, rather than detention facilities. But Amnesty said the conditions are still not good enough and can last as long as four months. Many children are choosing to be sent home rather than continue living in the shelters and pursuing their cases for protection or release, Amnesty said.
The disparate treatment between Mexican and Central American children has been a sticking point in the immigration debate for years.
When the UAC surge first began in 2014, the Obama administration called for adopting the Mexican standard for all children.
That’s also the position of many Republicans.
But immigrant-rights advocates say their answer is to adopt the Central American standard for everywhere, including Mexico.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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