After the Border: What Happens to Children Deported Alone?
In 2008, a Mexican Congress-issued report claimed that U.S. authorities had deported more than 90,000 children, but over 13,000 of those kids were never reunited with their families.
Inside the Mexican Immigration office, is Mexico’s social services agency called the Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF). When immigrant children are apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol they are released and sent to this office to wait for family to “claim” the children, but what happens when the children are deported without their families?
The children are placed with DIF, often with dirty, ripped clothing, scrapes, bruises, and snakebites and they have little else to do but wait.
The problems begin when they arrive and employees like Agatha Cano, the sole person at the DIF office on the bridge in Reynosa, Mexico, have to piece together a child’s history with information from the Mexican Consulate. The consulate conducts initial interviews to determine that the children’s rights have not been violated before U.S. Border agents send them back to Mexico. Cano helps figure out who will claim the children once they’ve been returned, which is more difficult than it might seem.
Some of the children are separated from their parents or grandparents by the smugglers they paid to take them across the border, while others were sent across the border alone or are attempting to join family members already in the United States when caught by border patrol. Sadder still, are the children that helplessly watched their loved ones die in the desert.
While Cano attempts to find the children’s families, the problem often arises that the families are either deceased or already in the U.S. and therefore cannot risk getting the children and not be able to return to the U.S. once more.
Another issue comes when drug smugglers pick children off the streets that have little or no family, and force them to carry drugs into the ‘States or escort immigrants across the border, because if a child is caught, USBP does not press charges, they just send the children back. Sadly, documents proving a relationship to a child are easily falsified, and children often end up back with drug cartels that use them as smugglers.
If children are not picked up from the offices they are sent to any number of shelters further from the border smugglers often wait outside for them. Some of the kids admit they will attempt to cross as many times as it takes, while others express they never wished to cross in the first place, and that they only tried to cross in an attempt to stay with their families.