Voices from the Lighthouse – Unaccompanied Minors Find Trouble in Mexico

By Don Greene

In 2014, the United States saw an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America’s Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. In 2014, according to US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) there was a record of 68,541 children apprehended. In 2015, estimates indicate that only 37,000 children will be taken into custody.

We know from reports that conditions in those countries have not changed. The economic situation of the Northern Triangle continues to be stagnant. US companies started the decline of local economies as far back as the early 1900s when farmlands were taken over to raise crops for US consumption. To fill the void, gangs and drug cartels have taken over the region and press into service the young boys of the region. Why then the drop in number?

Faced with these hardships, families are making the drastic decision to send their children to better circumstances in the United States, especially with the possibility of asylum and expedited processing under US immigration law signed by President George W Bush. Unfortunately for the children making the journey, Mexican officials are detaining these children and keeping them in facilities for months on end without processing them according to their own laws.

According to a report issues by the Georgetown Law School’s Human Rights Institute, many of these children and any accompanying family members, are being detained in local immigration stations and shelters for “long, unpredictable periods of time” even though Mexican immigration law requires these children to be transferred to state or federal immigration facilities for processing. At one facility, in the south of Mexico, children were held for anywhere between 15 and 300 days, without being processed.

Those who are being detained have the right to apply for asylum, but usually don’t because of the depressing conditions they are held in. According to one teenager who was interviewed for the study, “It’s an awful place. People are crammed, it’s very hot, the food is terrible, and it’s dangerous for us teenagers because they put us together with maras [Central American gangs].” The children are sent on this journey to escape the dangers of the gangs, only to be held in Mexican immigration facilities and to fall prey to the gangs that are there.

No matter how much the United States wants to turn its back on the plight of these children, they continue to make their journeys. Instead of making it to the United States and relative safety, they are being detained in Mexico where their rights are being violated even more.

When we as a nation turn a blind eye to the sufferings of those around us, sufferings that were originally caused by us, we do more harm than good.

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