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Migrant children suffering the unintended consequences of Biden policy

Migrant children suffering the unintended consequences of Biden policy
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Encounters with unaccompanied alien children (UAC) at the U.S.-Mexico border are increasing rapidly. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered 5,689 such children in January; 9,271 in February; and 18,663 in March. This wouldn’t be happening if President BidenJoe Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE had not exempted UACs from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) pandemic order to refuse admission to undocumented aliens.

Apparently, Biden is so focused on reversing the Trump administration’s border security measures that he isn’t thinking about the consequences of his actions.

In addition to the dangerous journey these children have to make to get here, they will be held in crowded detention facilities when they arrive, which will expose them to the risk of getting COVID-19 that the CDC tried to protect them from with its order.

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Dangerous journey

According to current CBP data, most unaccompanied children come from the Northern Triangle countries in Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The journey from Central America to the United States is one of the most dangerous trips in the world. The migrants making this journey are victims of physical and sexual assaults, extortion, kidnapping, and murder. UNICEF reported recently that this journey can take up to two months in very harsh conditions, and migrants who make the journey are being abused.

According to Doctors Without Borders, nearly 60 percent of these migrants have reported being the victims of violence.

Smugglers have zero regard for the lives they endanger. Smugglers recently dropped a three-year-old and a five-year-old child from the top of a 14-foot-high border wall onto the American side of the border — and then abandoned them.

In January, a Guatemalan16-year-old was murdered in northern Mexico and his body was set on fire.

Obama’s DHS Secretary, Jeh C. Johnson, posted an open letter telling Central American parents that, “In the hands of smugglers, many children are traumatized and psychologically abused by their journey, or worse, beaten, starved, sexually assaulted or sold into the sex trade.”

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Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has made a similar plea: “Please do not send your wives and daughters on this journey only to be sexually assaulted by the coyotes and cartels.”

Why do the Central American parents expose their children to such danger? Apparently, they think it’s worth the risk because almost all of the children who reach the U.S. border are admitted — and very few of them are returned to their own countries. Only 4.3 percent of the 290,000 unaccompanied children who came here between fiscal 2014, and fiscal 2019, were returned to their own countries — 95.7 percent are still in the United States.

CDC pandemic order

According to the CDC, aliens held in crowded common areas in close proximity to one another while they are being processed may be exposed COVID–19, and the ones who already have or contract this disease while in CBP custody will bring it into the country if they are admitted.

The surge in unaccompanied children has overwhelmed border resources, which has made it necessary to detain them in crowded facilities while they are being processed. The number of children in CBP custody currently is averaging around 2,400.

CNN has reported that the average time unaccompanied children spend in CBP custody is far above the 72-hour legal limit, hovering around 122 hours.

The State of Texas has filed a suit against Biden to compel him to stop releasing unaccompanied children who may have COVID-19 into Texas. The suit claims that this is imperiling public health in Texas and the United States.

This won’t end well for the children

We will never know how many children are kidnapped, beaten, starved, sexually assaulted, or sold into the sex trade on their journey to the United States.

But we do know that the ones who reach the United States aren’t likely to get lawful status.

Only 28 percent of the UACs who entered between fiscal 2014 and 2019, were granted some form of relief. Most of them have had to live in the shadows of our society without legal status.

Is there an alternative?

Central American parents would stop sending their children here with smugglers if the United States stopped letting them into the country.

It’s that simple.

Instead of letting unaccompanied children into the country to determine whether they are eligible for asylum or some other form of relief, Biden could transport them to refugee centers at locations outside the United States where that determination could be made. 

In fact, he has taken a small step in that direction already. He has restarted the Central American Minors (CAM) program to reunite qualified Central American children with parents who are lawfully present in the United States.

The original CAM program did not live up to expectations. According to the fiscal 2018 Proposed Refugee Admissions report to congress, the original CAM program was phased out because the vast majority of the participants were not eligible for refugee resettlement.

To be successful — and to help unaccompanied children — the program will have to be changed.

Biden’s CAM program will reunite qualified children with their parents, and 6 U.S. Code § 279 defines an “unaccompanied alien child” as an undocumented alien under the age of 18 with respect to whom —

(i) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or

(ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.

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Thus, Biden will have to expand his program to include UACs if he wants it to be an alternative to making the dangerous journey to the United States.

He also will have to make the CAM program the only way for unaccompanied alien children to present their persecution claims; otherwise, their parents aren’t likely to want them to take advantage of the program — since they’d be far more likely to be able to enter and remain in the United States if they come here unaccompanied than if they seek refugee status in Biden’s CAM program.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow his blog at https://nolanrappaport.blogspot.com.