The Department of Homeland Security has expelled unaccompanied immigrant children from the U.S. border more than 13,000 times since March, when the Trump administration granted the agency unprecedented powers to close border access during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal document obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The number represents a big jump in expulsions of children since the CDC issued an order allowing border officials to expel nearly all immigrants crossing from Mexico. Corona Virus It was spreading rapidly around the world in March.
“This is an enormous number of children who are summarily returned without any due process, and they may be in serious or mortal danger,” said Lee Gillert, the attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union working to stop it.
Previously, unaccompanied children were sent to government-run shelters while trying to pursue their asylum cases. But the Trump administration has argued that the policy is necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the United States and has been a primary tool for border agents.
Expulsions are legally different from deportations, which means that an immigrant has already undergone the immigration process and is found not legally permitted to remain in the United States. Critics say the government is using public health orders as an excuse to violate federal laws governing treatment of unaccompanied minors at the border.
In September, a border official in federal court announced that about 8,800 children had been referred through using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order. The Department of Homeland Security document states that since March, there have been more than 13,000 “encounters” with unaccompanied migrant children under the new policy.
A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson did not confirm the tally due to ongoing litigation, but stated that “confrontation” meant expulsion.
The spokesman said: “Once confronted, they will be expelled,” noting that the census could also include children who return to the border several times.
Before the pandemic, unaccompanied children picked up by border agents would be sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, where they would be housed in shelters where they formally began to apply for asylum and await reunification with family members in the United States.
The ORR referral process was established under the Trafficking Victims Protection Re-license Act, signed by then-President George W. Bush in 2008. Under the law, Customs and Border Protection officials are generally required to refer children within 72 hours to the US Refugee Agency.
But these referrals fell sharply after the CDC order. Instead, unaccompanied children at the border are immediately returned to Mexico or detained in Customs and Border Protection facilities until a flight can get them out of the country.
In late June, US District Court Judge Carl Nichols, appointed by President Donald Trump, Prevent deportation Of a 16-year-old Honduran boy under CDC order. While the ruling did not completely nullify the policy, it was seen as a blow to the administration. Since then, the government has said it no longer seeks to use the CDC order to get the boy out of the country.
In September, a federal judge also ordered the Trump B. Stop holding Migrant children in hotels before they are quickly returned to their countries of origin under the epidemiological border policy.