Saturday, May 25, 2024

Child deportations surge amid Coronavirus pandemic

The Trump administration has expedited the deportation of child migrants during the coronavirus pandemic, citing public health, but documents obtained by NBC News show that as far back as 2017, now–DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf sought to expedite child deportations in order to discourage Central American asylum seekers.

Recent reports from immigration lawyers, DHS officials and congressional staff have indicated a rise in the number of deportations of unaccompanied migrant children. Previously, children who arrived in the U.S. without a parent or legal guardian were given protections under anti-trafficking laws, which included the right to claim asylum and to be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services until they could be placed with a guardian.

The New York Times recently reported that more than 900 children have been deported under a new policy that sends children back to their home countries before they have had a chance to coordinate plans with a guardian at home or claim asylum in the U.S.. According to the Times, many of those children, were in the U.S. and living in HHS custody or with family members before the pandemic began.

DHS has said the deportations are justified under Title 42, which allows restrictions on immigration to slow the spread of disease. But a 2017 policy proposal by Wolf shows that the agency has long sought the ability to deport children more quickly, long before the threat of a virus.

The documents were first obtained by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D.-Ore., and then shared with NBC News. Wolf, who was then chief of staff to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, sent a collection of policy ideas to the Justice Department, which included plans to reclassify unaccompanied migrant children as accompanied once they had been placed in the care of a parent or sponsor.

Immigration attorneys say many of the deported children do not have families or plans in place for their care when they find themselves abruptly returned by plane to their home countries.