October 30, 2020

A New York Times, citing “a sharply critical internal email from a senior Border Patrol official,” revealed that U.S. border agencies have been using the Title 42 pandemic expulsion authority to send non-Mexican unaccompanied migrant children alone across the border into Mexico.

“Recently, we have identified several suspected instances where Single Minors (SM) from countries other than Mexico have been expelled via ports of entry rather than referred to ICE Air Operations for expulsion flights,” Border Patrol Assistant Chief Eduardo Sanchez wrote.

This appeared to violate agreements with Mexico for Title 42’s implementation. In addition, the Times explained,

The expulsions put children from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at risk by sending them with no accompanying adult into a country where they have no family connections. Most appear to have been put, at least at first, into the care of Mexican child welfare authorities, who oversee shelters operated by religious organizations and other private groups.

The number of times non-Mexican children have been expelled alone was not clear, the Times reported:

The human rights organization Women’s Refugee Commission, working with several other advocacy organizations, filed a public records request with Mexican authorities and received data suggesting that at least 208 Central American children had been returned to the custody of Mexican authorities between March 21 and June 5. But the Mexican authorities did not specify how many of the children were traveling alone, and not accompanied by adults.

Title 42 was employed much more frequently during the pandemic’s first eight months to expel unaccompanied non-Mexican children to their home countries by plane. That, the Times noted, involved being

held only briefly in Border Patrol facilities or in hotels before being sent to their home countries, often without any notification to their families ahead of time. Some have had to borrow cellphones when they arrive at airports to look for family members who may be willing to take them in.

— Caitlin Dickerson, “U.S. Expels Migrant Children From Other Countries to Mexico” (New York: The New York Times, October 30, 2020) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/us/migrant-children-expulsions-mexico.html.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Expulsion of Unaccompanied Minor, Inappropriate Deportation, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Unaccompanied Child