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New report finds U.S. is deporting Central American kids to Mexico

U.S. border authorities are allegedly violating an agreement by sending minors into Mexico even if they come from other Central American countries. A new report finds that at least 200 children have been sent to Mexico over the past eight months, although they do not have family there and should have been sent home instead. The New York Times’ Caitlin Dickerson joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    U.S. border authorities are allegedly violating an agreement with Mexico and expelling minors into Mexico even if they come from other countries in Central America.

    The children crossed the Southern border into the U.S. illegally, but, as The New York Times now reports, Mexico is not where they're supposed to be sent.

    Amna Nawaz has the details and the questions it raises about child welfare.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    During the pandemic, thousands of children have been rapidly deported to their home countries after crossing the U.S. border. But The Times reports today at least 200 of those children, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, were sent to Mexico instead, despite having no family nor connections there.

    Caitlin Dickerson broke the story, and she fills in the rest of the picture for us now.

    Caitlin, welcome back to the "NewsHour." And thanks for being with us.

    You have covered a number of stories about the care and custody of migrate children by the Trump administration, family separation, kids being held in hotels before they were deported. But you said this practice that you have uncovered has potentially more devastating complications.

    Why? What did you mean by that?

  • Caitlin Dickerson:

    Well, I think the easiest way to understand it is to put yourself in the shoes of a parent.

    So there are a lot of different circumstances that are leading kids to cross the American border alone, but at least one of them, which is quite common, is parents end up staying back in the home country, and a child makes the journey to the United States on their own, because they don't feel safe, again, for a number of different reasons.

    They cross the American border alone, and the parent has an expectation of where their child is going to end up. And almost in every case, when we know that a child crosses the border alone, they have somebody in the United States who's waiting for them.

    But now what we're talking about is, again, this unprecedented policy that — under which the administration started expelling kids back to their home countries, often without notifying parents. That was surprising enough. And now what we have learned and what we have reported today is that some kids, rather than being expelled back into their home countries, are being sent to different country, Mexico, where they have no connections, and sent into the hands of child welfare authorities there.

    So, again, I think the easiest way to understand why this is such a big deal, why it's so concerning for parents is if you put yourself in their position and you find your child ends up in a country that you didn't expect them to.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What about the government officials you spoke to, the U.S. government officials. They don't dispute this is happening? Why do they say it's happening?

  • Caitlin Dickerson:

    There's a lot of confusion, to be honest with you.

    And we talked to the U.S. government officials about what we discovered. So, I first learned this was happening, first confirmed this was happening with an internal e-mail I got access to. It was written by an assistant chief of the Border Patrol.

    And he seems to be sounding the alarm in the e-mail. He says there are several suspected instances of this happening. It's a major problem. It needs to stop. It puts this whole coronavirus border ban in jeopardy, the one that we have been discussing.

    And so we brought that e-mail and the reports of individual cases that we have heard — I have talked to a couple of parents who've been in this situation — we brought it to high ranking officials who were speaking officially to The New York Times. And they originally said, yes, this is happening, but then they sort of said, well, but it violates the American agreement with Mexico, which is true.

    The Mexican government did not agree to accept unaccompanied minors. They still haven't given us an explanation for whether these expulsions to Mexico were an accident, whether they're being done systematically from one port of entry and not another. There's still a lot of big questions about why this is happening.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, Caitlin, in just the few seconds we have left, we have all we have all known about these hundreds of children who, after the Trump administration's family separation policy, years later are still not reunited with their families.

    What do we know about these children? Who has responsibility for them now? And will they be reunited with their families?

  • Caitlin Dickerson:

    So, these children, as far as we know, went into the hands, like I said, of Mexican child welfare authorities.

    They have to process these, just like the American government does, to reunite parents and children. But, as we have learned time and time again in the last couple of years, these processes take a long time.

    And so it could be a while before parents and children are brought back together.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Caitlin Dickerson with an exclusive and important story tonight from The New York Times.

    Caitlin, thank you so much for being with us.

  • Caitlin Dickerson:

    Thanks for having me.

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