Last year, the issue of Central American children fleeing violence made headlines in the United States. But unlike unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Mexican children rarely get an opportunity to tell their story before an immigration judge.
According to a 2014 report by the United Nations Refugee Agency, nearly 60 percent of unaccompanied Mexican minors surveyed mentioned violence as one reason for leaving home. But in 2013, less than five percent were referred to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) where they would receive shelter and some legal advice, and then later be placed with a family member or sponsor to await an immigration hearing. Without this placement with ORR and an immigration hearing, the dangers Mexican children face if deported and the protections that may be available to them do not get fully considered.
Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA’s) new video, “Forgotten at the Border,” exposes the plight of Mexican children who migrate to the U.S. in an attempt to escape violence through interviews with migrant children, Border Patrol, Mexican authorities, and experts. Unless Mexican children can prove to a Border Patrol agent that they face a credible risk of being a victim of persecution or trafficking, they are sent straight back to Mexico, without a chance to tell their story. WOLA’s video is accompanied by an investigative report, available here.
The video highlights the stories of minors like Esteban, a 17-year-old who describes fleeing from a local cartel, crossing the Arizona border, and getting deported by Border Patrol. Like many other Mexican migrant children, Esteban claims that he faces serious threats at home but isn’t being given a fair chance to present his case.
The video and report were produced in collaboration with journalists Natasha Pizzey and James Fredrick. In light of the issues highlighted in the video, WOLA has prepared recommendations for the U.S. and Mexican governments to better protect and screen unaccompanied Mexican children (Click here).
Since the video’s publication, the story received extensive attention in Mexico. All major media outlets in Mexico, including Animal Politico, La Jornada, El Universal, Proceso, Reforma, Milenio, and El Economista, reported on the investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s failure to properly screen Mexican children fleeing violence.