Social Issues

Mexico feels the effect of unaccompanied minors flocking to US border

By Guadalupe Peñuelas

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- More than 15,000 unaccompanied minors, most of them from Central America, were intercepted trying to enter the United States during the first two months of this year and youngsters are among the migrants who have ended up at a shelter in this gritty, violent border metropolis.

Mexico’s INM immigration agency said last week that a 4-year-old Honduran boy was found in Reynosa near the banks of the Rio Grande River, which separates Mexico from the US.

He was traveling with nine other people, including three adult women, but none of them was related to him.

On Tuesday, US Border Patrol agents rescued a 6-year-old and his younger brother who had been abandoned by migrant traffickers in rough terrain.

The Border Patrol had previously released a video showing traffickers dropping two Ecuadorian girls – ages 3 and 5 – onto US soil from the top of the border barrier.

“Only God knows the hearts of those people who leave their children, perhaps it is desperation,” Evelin Contreras told Efe Thursday at the Ciudad Juarez shelter where she is staying with her 2-year-old son, Daniel.

Contreras, 18, said she fled her native Honduras due to the corruption and violence with the ambition of bringing Daniel to the US so he can get a good education.

“One cannot live there,” she said at the El Buen Samaritano (The Good Samaritan) shelter in this city just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The Mexican government said that 1,742 minors were among the 21,868 migrants who registered with the INM in January and February and that some 800 of those minors were unaccompanied.

During the same period, nearly 180,000 migrants surrendered to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which said Thursday that another 172,331 people were detained in March, the highest one-month total in 15 years.

The surge appears to be the result of expectations that the US will take a more generous attitude to Central Americans seeking asylum now that Joe Biden has succeeded the anti-immigrant Donald Trump as president.

“The dangers children brave range from the violence in their place of origin to the journey, on which they are exposed to traffickers, to extortion and to organized crime groups who use them to transport illicit substances,” Dora Giusti, with the Mexico office of Unicef, told Efe.

Some families in Central America have gotten the mistaken idea that if they can reach northern Mexico, they will be free to cross into the US and apply for asylum, she said.

“It is not the best time to put yourself at risk and put your children at risk. It’s better to wait for them to announce other kinds of programs in the future,” Giusti said.

Juan Fierro Garcia, director of El Buen Samaritano, said that since the Central American migrants caravans began to arrive at the border in 2018, most of the adults have been accompanied by children.

Like Giusti, he ascribes the phenomenon to misinformation, often in the form of rumors spread by migrant traffickers.

Fierro has adapted the shelter to accommodate migrant families, stocking it with toys and erecting slides.

Eda Cristelia Melendez set out from Honduras on a mission to reunite 3-year-old granddaughter Linda with her mother, who lives in Chicago.

Two other of Melendez’s offspring also live in the Windy City, while a fourth now calls Houston home.

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