Immigration reform debate keeps mum on deporting kids

Unaccompanied minors are the best example of the need for mechanisms for fully comprehensive reform of the immigration system in the United States, and yet the proposed bill from the Gang of Eight does very little for this fastest growing and most vulnerable of migrants to the country.

Even if the immigration reform bill is able to pass through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, little is done for children other than proposing that the Department of Justice should provide them with free legal representation.  In the last eight years since 2005, statistics from the Department of Homeland Security show that over 425,000 people under 18 years of age have been detained after crossing the US border, 60% of whom were doing so unaccompanied.

In the same period, however, barely 70,000 entered the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, under a third of those that were caught.  More than 150,000 unaccompanied minors from Mexico were never transferred into the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and were instead deported, in blatant violation of both the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement and TVPRA.

According to the Appleseed Report by Maru Cortazar and Betsy Cavendish, unaccompanied minors from Mexico are frequently denied the kind of basic protection given to other immigrant minors, with most never being screened by TVPRA and thus ineligible for the classification needed to enter the care of ORR and are returned to Mexico, in flagrant contradiction of the law.