Lawsuit Demands Records on the Treatment of Migrant Children at the Border During COVID-19 Pandemic

October 30, 2020

WASHINGTON—Children and immigration advocacy groups filed a lawsuit yesterday in the Northern District of Illinois against U.S. Customs and Border Protection requesting information about the agency’s implementation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule suspending people from entering the United States due to the COVID 19 pandemic and its specific impact on unaccompanied migrant children fleeing harm and seeking protection in the United States.

The lawsuit—filed by the American Immigration Council and the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago School of Law—seeks to further public understanding of CBP’s implementation of the CDC order, after public reports uncovered the unlawful detention, expulsion, and deportation of unaccompanied migrant children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBP has failed to disclose critical information about the numbers of migrant children who have been affected, the conditions of care provided by CBP to migrant children held in non-licensed facilities, and safeguards against abuse or maltreatment of migrant children impacted by the order.

Unaccompanied migrant children have robust protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which recognizes the vulnerability of these children and contains safeguards governing unaccompanied minors’ detention and ability to access legal remedies based on having endured trafficking or persecution in their home countries. Public health experts and legal advocates have expressed concerns that the CDC order provides little protection against the spread of disease, and risks placing thousands of vulnerable children at increased risk of exploitation and harm.

The lawsuit challenges CBP’s failure to disclose information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted in August 2020.

“It is essential for the public to know whether and to what extent a federal agency is violating its obligations under the law. Particularly when the protections of a vulnerable population, such as unaccompanied migrant children, are at stake,” said Claudia Valenzuela, FOIA senior attorney at the American Immigration Council.

“If the United States values human rights, then the human rights of every child—including migrant children—should be fully respected, protected, and fulfilled. COVID-19 should not be used an excuse to target and undermine the protections of any specific group of children, especially those who are most vulnerable,” said Katherine Kaufka Walts, director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

A copy of the complaint is here.

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
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