Around 8,800 unaccompanied children were quickly expelled from the United States along the Mexico border under a pandemic-related measure that effectively ended asylum , authorities announced on September 11.

The Trump administration has expelled over 159,000 people since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emergency order took effect in March, a figure that also includes over 7,600 adults and children who crossed the border in families.

The figures on children were reported for the first time in a declaration by Raul Ortiz, the Border Patrol’s deputy chief, as part of the administration’s appeal of an order to stop housing children in hotels.

The administration “immediately” expelled most children and families to Mexico but more than 2,200 unaccompanied children and 600 people who came in families were held until flights could be arranged to return home, Ortiz said.


The administration asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a ruling last week that found the use of hotels skirted “fundamental humanitarian protections.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles ruled that using hotels for long-term detention violated a two-decade-old settlement governing the treatment of children in custody. She ordered border agencies to stop placing children in hotels by September 15.

Justice Department attorneys argued that settlement doesn’t apply during the public health emergency and that hotels were appropriate.

“While in these hotels, the government provides minors with supervision by specialists, recreation, amenities, and protective measures against COVID-19 ,” the attorneys wrote.

Before the pandemic, unaccompanied children were sent to state-licensed shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services and often released to family members while seeking asylum.


Migrant children in Mexico

However, the situation in Mexico is not much better for migrant children , who are often kept in overcrowded facilities.

In 2019, EL UNIVERSAL reported that despite migration laws, Mexico keeps migrant children in crowded detention centers.

Overcrowding, prison-like conditions, bed bugs, and illness are among the complaints of migrants in a Mexico City detention center that holds dozens of minors months after a court ruled it was unconstitutional.

After Donald Trump threatened Mexico with the implementation of new tariffs, the country stepped up migrant detentions to stem a surge in asylum-seekers from Central America.

Known as Las Agujas, the Mexico City holding center enclosed by spike-topped walls in the eastern district of Iztapalapa held about 108 minors, some of whom are unaccompanied.

In June 2019, a court ruled it unconstitutional for Las Agujas to hold children after a 10-year-old Guatemalan girl died in its custody.

Las Agujas is part of a network of centers the government has vowed to upgrade. The detention of minors has increased concerns about the treatment of migrants by the Mexican government in its push to reduce the flow of people trying to cross into the U.S.

In June 2019, a panel of judges ordered Las Agujas to stop holding children, citing migration laws and minors’ rights.

In July 2019, an administrative court said the director of Las Agujas, Miguel Ángel Hernández, had not heeded the order, referencing five unaccompanied minors from India at the center.

In a statement, the INM said it prioritized family unity, and that unaccompanied minors are only in the centers “temporarily.”


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