U.N. agency kicks off campaign for minor migrants

he United Nation’s Children’s Fund is urging that the United States does not detain illegal youngsters who are successful in sneaking into the country.

The Fund also said Tuesday that every month, thousands of children from Central America risk being kidnapped, trafficked, raped, or killed as they make their way to the United States to seek refuge from brutal gangs and stifling poverty, and there is no sign this trend is letting up.

The U.N. agency said that in the first six months of 2016, almost 26,000 unaccompanied children and close to 29,700 people traveling as a family, mostly mothers and young children, were apprehended at the U.S. border with Mexico. That is on top of the 16,000 from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who were apprehended in Mexico in the first six months of 2016, it reported.

At its peak, the first six months of 2014, more than 44,500 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the U.S. border, the Fund noted.

The Fund said there was no sign of this wave of migrants letting up. By contrast, more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors, mainly from the Middle East, entered Germany this year

The report puts into perspective the effort in which Costa Rica agreed to house 200 youngsters while they are being prepared to move to the United States under an Obama administration program.

The Children’s Fund said that in addition to not detaining the illegal immigrants, the United States should give them full access to health care and other services and should allow them to live with their families whenever possible.

The Fund also noted that the illegal immigrants who are caught and given civil immigration hearings are more likely to be deported if they do not have a lawyer. It said 40 percent of unrepresented youngsters are deported compared to just 3 percent of those who have lawyers.

In most cases, those who have lawyers also have family with funds already living in the United States.

The statement from the U.N. agency appears to be the start of a campaign because news media all over the world have aired the statement. The release was based on a larger report. The goal appears to be to generate support for a new U.S. program.

The Fund repeated the often-stated claim that the migrants are fleeing gang violence in their homelands, although poverty plays a role.

The United States has special visas for refugees who are victims of crime or of human trafficking.

When unaccompanied child migrants are detained at the U.S. border, they are sent to government-operated shelters or are put in foster care homes, according to wire service reports. The Children’s Fund said they are often in this situation for about one month and then are handed over to sponsors, who are often relatives. Children traveling with a parent risk swift deportation or months of detention, it added.

“These vulnerable children, many of whom are traveling without an adult, need protection
every step of the way, in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which have some of the world’s highest murder rates, as they cross Mexico, and when they arrive in the United States,” the Children’s Fund said in its report, “Broken Dreams – Central American children’s dangerous journey to the United States.”

Those who are deported face the risk of being attacked or killed by the gangs they sought to escape, the fund said.

On July 26, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new program to allow up to 9,000 migrants to enter the country legally. This is the Central American Minors program in which Costa Rica plays a part.

The Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program provides certain qualified children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras a safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States, the U.S. agency said.

Only certain parents who are legally present in the U.S. are eligible to be qualifying parents and file for their children, said the federal agency, adding that each qualified child must be unmarried, under the age of 21 and reside in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras. In certain cases, the parent of the qualifying child may also qualify for access if that parent is the legal spouse of the qualifying parent in the United States, it said.

Applicants for the Central American Minors program will be processed and selected outside the United States, according to the plan.

The Obama administration hopes the program will slow the flow of minors to the U.S. border. The U.N. Children’s Fund is involved in making the selections of the refugees.

The three Central American nations, El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, have special relationships with the United States, based on a long history. For example, many from El Salvador sought and won legal refugee status in the States during that country’s civil war from 1980 to 1992.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday that youngsters brought here under the resettlement program would not be gang members.

The success of the program would seem to hinge on the Nov. 8, U.S. elections. The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has said he would seal off the southern border against illegal immigrants.

Cover of report on Central American kids

Cover of report on Central American kids

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