Unaccompanied minors at border to be returned to home countries as part of coronavirus strategy

Unaccompanied minors at border to be returned to home countries as ...

The Trump administration says that almost all migrants encountered at the southern border, including unaccompanied minors, will be returned to their home countries as part of the aggressive effort to curb new coronavirus infections.
The administration announced on March 20 that it will turn away all migrants at the northern and southern borders who are not authorized to enter the U.S., whether they are caught crossing the border illegally or are seeking asylum at ports of entry.
It was initially believed that unaccompanied minors would be exempted from that order. But Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in a statement this week, clarified that all those encountered by CBP can be subject to the order -- issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and will be returned to their home countries and reunited with families.
“When minors are encountered without adult family members, CBP works closely with their home countries to transfer them to the custody of government officials and reunite them with their families quickly and safely, if possible,” the statement, first reported by BuzzFeed News, said. “CBP also may, on a case-by-case basis, such as when return to the home country is not possible or an agent suspects trafficking or sees signs of illness, except any alien from the CDC order.”
The Trump administration, as with the Obama administration before it, has long wrestled with the question of unaccompanied minors -- attempting to walk the line between not abandoning children escaping violence, while also not separating families or creating pull factors that tempt migrants to bring children north as during the 2019 migrant crisis.
The new rules are being implemented. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that migrants being caught trying to cross into the U.S. illegally are being expelled to Mexico in an average of just 96 minutes as the migrants are being processed “in the field” without even seeing the inside of a Border Patrol station.
But the rules are also controversial among Democrats and left-wing activists, who claim the move violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and risks putting children in danger by returning them to countries and areas riddled by violence.
“Reports that DHS is not following the TVPRA are deeply troubling. We have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of these children. Children do not have to be put in harm’s way to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic,” a letter from Senate and House Judiciary Democrats to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said. “DHS has the ability and capacity to protect both these children and the public. We request that DHS stop this practice immediately.”
The move is the latest component of a sweeping effort by the administration to curb additional coronavirus infections by hardening borders.
President Trump announced this month that nonessential travel would be restricted at the land borders with Mexico and Canada. That came after he imposed travel bans on China, Iran and the European Union in response to the crisis.
Meanwhile, DHS confirmed on Tuesday to Fox News that more than 500 troops are being sent to the border to support CBP efforts to keep the border secure -- although they will not be used in law enforcement.

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