Texas: Study says immigrant minors mistreated

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Nov 15 15:23:33 UTC 2008

Study says immigrant minors mistreated

By ANABELLE GARAY Associated Press Writer (c) 2008 The Associated Press

Nov. 13, 2008, 9:31PMShare  Print Email
Del.icio.usDiggTechnoratiYahoo! BuzzDALLAS — Children caught trying to
slip illegally into the U.S. are mistreated while in custody,
transported home unsafely and denied access to representation, a study
released Thursday contends. The Austin-based think tank Center for
Public Policy Priorities outlined a series of what they said were
shortcomings by the federal government in dealing with unaccompanied
illegal immigrant children taken into custody. But the Department of
Homeland Security disputes the allegations. The study blames
inadequate policies for some of the maltreatment.

"There's no consistent policy. There's nobody who's responsible for
these kids, in looking out for their safety," said study author Amy
Thompson. "It's being handled in ad hoc fashion." Policies on how to
process, detain and care for unaccompanied children in U.S. custody
are based on guidelines stemming from a federal settlement agreement
and the Homeland Security Act of 2002, DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner
said in a statement issued Thursday evening.

Children interviewed for the study reported going without water at
U.S. Border Patrol stations, being handcuffed, having their requests
for medical attention ignored. At least one reported getting struck
and knocked down by an agent.

"DHS and its component agencies treat all minors, including
unaccompanied alien children (UAC), with dignity, respect and special
concern for their particular vulnerabilities," Keehner said in the

According to the study, many children faced complicated immigration
proceedings without legal representation. Some 50 to 70 percent of
detained unaccompanied minors went before an immigration judge without
a lawyer last year. At times, consulates weren't notified about
children from their country being removed, a violation of an
international treaty, the study said.

"I would say 'Imagine your 8-year-old daughter or niece in a country
where they didn't speak the language, don't know the culture and, were
completely at the mercy of strangers. How would you want them to be
treated?" said Thompson. "Children aren't capable of understanding
international laws and boundaries. They're little kids mixed up in
something bigger than themselves."

Children flown to non-bordering countries were shackled during the
flight and those taken by vehicle across the border to Mexico were
transported in kennel-like compartments, the study said.

Mexican officials reported that children were returned in the middle
of the night and brought to ports of entry that weren't specified in
agreements. Sometimes consulates were not notified of children from
their country being apprehended and removed, according to the study.

An estimated 43,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children were
remoed from the U.S. in 2007, according to the study. They were caught
while traveling alone, with siblings, other children or adults who
they may not know, the study said. Their reasons for trying to get to
the U.S. vary from reuniting with parents and coming to work to
fleeing violence at home and being trafficked.

Thompson said there is a misperception that the children are teenage
boys. She pointed out those being returned include infants and an
increasing number of girls. The study included information from
interviews with children as young as 7.

During one interview, a 13-year-old girl from the Mexican state of
Michoacan told of being injured during her apprehension in the summer
of 2007. The girl said she was tackled by a U.S. official she thinks
was a drug enforcement agent. The agent apologized but refused to take
off her handcuffs, the girl said.

After she was transferred to the Border Patrol's custody, the girl
said she asked for a pain reliever, since she had recently had surgery
on her arm and the injury caused by the agent aggravated the wound.
But Border Patrol agents refused to give her over-the-counter
medication, she said.

When the Mexican consulate intervened, the girl was taken to the
hospital. However, the medical attention she received seemed to be
geared toward responding to the possibility of an abuse allegation,
according to the study.

Aside from interviews with 33 Mexican and Honduran children, the study
analyzed statistics and government policies in the U.S., Mexico and
Honduras. Interviews with 82 government officials, contractors and
non-profit workers in the three countries and tours of facilities for
unaccompanied children at two CBP stations in Texas were conducted for
the study, the nonpartisan institute said.


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