Between five and ten migrant children have been killed since February after the United States deported them back to Honduras, a morgue director told the Los Angeles Times. Lawmakers have yet to come up with best practices to deal with the waves of unaccompanied children apprehended by Border Patrol agents, but some politicians refute claims that children are fleeing violence and are opting instead to fund legislation that would fast-track their deportations.
San Pedro Sula morgue director Hector Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times that his morgue has taken in 42 dead children since February. According to an interview with relatives by the LA Times, one teenager was shot dead hours after getting deported. Last year, San Pedro Sula saw 187 killings for every 100,000 residents, a statistic that has given the city the gruesome distinction as the murder capital of the world. That distinction has also been backed up by an U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency infographic, which found that many Honduran children are on the run from extremely violent regions “where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.” Hugo Ramon Maldonado of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras believes that about 80 percent of Hondurans making the exodus are fleeing crime or violence.
Since October 2013, Border Patrol agents have apprehended about 63,000 unaccompanied children and another 63,000 “family units” (adults and children) at the southern U.S. border. While a steady stream of deported immigrants are flown back to Honduras about three times per week, the United States sent its first planeload of about 40 Honduran mothers and children from this particular wave in mid-July. Those individuals were dropped off in Honduras’ capital San Pedro Sula.
Politicians like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) have been keen on expediting the legal process by demanding that immigration judges make a court decision within seven days. But that move could undermine children’s rights by denying due process to children who already don’t understand the courtroom procedures. As Vox found out, one teenage girl told a border agent that she was afraid of being forced into prostitution only after her paperwork had been filed.
According to a United Nations report, at least 58 percent of the children cited “international protection needs” as in they were seeking protection from the international community because their home governments could no longer protect them. And at least 40 percent of apprehended children are eligible for some form of legal relief from removal, a 2012 Vera Institute report found.
Both the U.S. and Honduras governments have allocated funds to help repatriated immigrants stay in Honduras. In June, the White House stated that it would devote $18.5 million to “support community policing and law enforcement efforts to confront gangs and other sources of crime.” And the Honduran First Lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez committed to new governmental programs that are “aimed at improving the lives of those who are sent back and giving others a reason to stay.” Some deportees are rightfully skeptical since the Honduran government hasn’t exactly funded programs meant for repatriated immigrants: Valdete Wileman who runs the Center for Returned Migrants in San Pedro Sula said that the government hardly helps maintain her center.
Still, deportations — and sometimes certain death — will likely not stop. Especially jarring comes recent news out of a New Mexico immigration detention center where multiple lawyers representing women claim that the Honduran consulate is advising immigrants “to forego legal counsel and consent to deportation,” according to a Santa Fe affiliated public radio station.