Young Center Decries Newest Policy to Threaten the Lives of Migrant Children

Today the U.S. government will take the unprecedented and unlawful step of turning away asylum-seekers under a policy the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has shamelessly named its “Migrant Protection Protocols.” Beginning today, individuals and families seeking protection at our border—including children accompanied by their parents—will be charged and placed into deportation proceedings, but will then be turned back and forced to wait in Mexico for their day in court.

Jennifer Nagda, the Young Center’s Policy Director, commented that, “Under this new policy, children will remain in precarious, unstable situations, vulnerable to violence, kidnapping and exploitation. Nothing about this policy is protective of migrant children.”

DHS acknowledges that these families will have already demonstrated a credible fear of persecution in their countries. Yet the agency will now force them to wait weeks, months or even years outside the U.S. for a day in court, knowing full well that these families fled extraordinary violence, traveled thousands of miles seeking safety, and may ultimately be granted permanent protection under the laws of the United States. Just a few months ago, two children were murdered while waiting along the U.S.-Mexico border for the chance to ask for protection in the U.S. That wait was created by a separate DHS practice known as meteringanother strategy intended to deter migration.

For these families, who fled persecution in their home countries, it is impossible to imagine how they will prepare for the eventual court hearing that will determine whether they receive asylum. DHS failed to provide details about how this policy will work. Will families be allowed to return to the United States to prepare for their hearing? Will they have meaningful access to attorneys? Will they appear in person before the judges hearing their stories and deciding their fate, or will their hearings be held by video conference, over a TV screen, with judges who are hundreds of miles away?

Plainly speaking, today’s new policy puts the very children and families already found to have a credible fear of persecution right back into danger. Jennifer Nagda stated, “This is yet another attempt to deter migration and prevent children and families from asking the United States for protection, even though it is their right under international law and the law of this nation.”

Maddie Witters