The ongoing story of child migration from Central America

The press continues to cover the story of children coming across the southwestern US border without documents, although the ebola scare and ISIS have pushed the story from the front pages.

The newest statistics on the flow of children are out.  US Customs and Border Protection reports that in the year ended September 30, 2014 there were detentions of 68,541 children aged 17 and under who crossed the border unaccompanied by a parent or relative.    This compared to 38,759 the year before.

There were a total of  16,404 unaccompanied children from El Salvador in the year ended September 30, almost a 12 fold increase from the number of children detained in 2011.   In addition to the unaccompanied children detained, there were more than 14,000 "family units" of adults with children from El Salvador detained at the southwest US border this year.  Combining just the unaccompanied children with the family units would average out to approximately 124 Salvadorans per day being detained crossing the southern US border without documents.   And that doesn't count single adults who are apprehended.

Meanwhile, the US continues to deport more than 20,000 Salvadorans from the US each year.

The Center for Public Integrity has an extensive article on the challenges that Central Americans have seeking asylum after being detained entering the US titled Asylum in America: A High-Stakes Struggle for Border Crossing Kids.  The grounds for staying in the US are narrow the article explains:
Christopher Manny, a former asylum officer in Chicago and Miami, explained the constraints of the law. 
“As traumatic as it is seeing your friend or family member executed by a gang for refusing recruitment or refusing an extortion demand,” Manny said, “generally speaking that would not be considered grounds for a refugee definition.” 
Officers must also be convinced, Manny said, that children’s suffering had a “nexus,” or was rooted in a persecutor’s intent to harm them because of one or more of five reasons: religious or political persuasion, race, nationality or because they belong to an identifiable “social group” that’s persecuted and unprotected.
The Albuquerque Journal describes a court ruling that limits federal court review of immigration officer determinations of whether an asylum seeker has a "credible fear" in an article titled Judge says court can’t help asylum seeker.

So how does a traumatized family negotiate the legal requirements of an asylum claim?   The Washington Post gives an insight into how immigration judges are processing these cases in a story titled  How a judge decides detained immigrants’ future from 1,700 miles away.   The  Minneapolis Star Tribune describes how Unaccompanied children's cases put immigration system to the test.

Another view of the topic was provided by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly which last week broadcast a piece titled Immigrant Children and the Courts.

If asylum claims are not successful, returning to El Salvador or one of the other Central American countries can be perilous for a male teenager.  In a story titled Deported Salvadoran teen returns home to threat of gang violence, the PBS News Hour follows Jose and the danger he faces, after he was deported from Mexico when he tried to make the migrant journey to the north.


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