Demanding Records on the Unlawful Detention, Expulsion and Deportation of Migrant Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

On March 20, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an interim final rule suspending noncitizens from being permitted entry into the United States in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. How immigration agencies—including Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—have implemented this order is not fully known to the public. This is cause for great concern because public reports already reflect the wide sweep of CBP’s implementation of the order—which includes unaccompanied minors who arrive to the U.S. after facing trafficking and other human rights abuses. These reports raise serious questions about whether CBP is violating statutory protections intended for these youth.

Unaccompanied migrant youth enjoy robust protections under immigration law, largely codified by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (2008). The TVPRA recognizes the vulnerability of these children and enacted safeguards governing their detention and ability to access legal remedies based on having endured trafficking or persecution in their home countries. Public reports reflect that migrant youth may be facing unlawful detention, expulsion and deportation.

This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed to gain a better understanding of how CBP is implementing the CDC order with regard to unaccompanied migrant children fleeing harm and seeking protection in the United States. Among the records sought in this FOIA request are:

  • Number of migrant children who have been affected by CBP’s implementation of the CDC Rule,
  • Conditions of care provided by CBP to migrant children held in non-licensed facilities
  • Safeguards against abuse or maltreatment of migrant children impacted by the Rule
  • Legal memoranda related to the rule’s violation of statutory obligations under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (2008)

In passing the TVPRA, Congress recognized the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied migrant youth who have endured harm and make arduous journeys to seek safety in the United States. Public scrutiny is necessary to ensure that the federal government is complying with the protections that Congress enacted for these children.

The American Immigration Council filed this FOIA request with partners at the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and the Illinois Chapter, the American Academy of Pediatrics.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection may have mistreated migrant children when implementing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interim final rule that suspends people from entering the United States due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

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