Detained children often face harsh conditions while struggling against a legal system over which they have little hope of triumphing.
Undocumented children entering the US alone must confront barriers that extend far beyond the border. If apprehended, they’re met with a sometimes-brutal detention period, followed by a trial under a legal system that treats them the same as apprehended adults, according to children’s rights advocates and recent reports by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office.
OIG estimates that more than 10,000 unaccompanied and undocumented children will be detained this year, not counting children who are immediately deported upon contact with Homeland Security. Most travel from Mexico or Central America. Kids migrate alone for some of the same reasons that adults do: to reunite with family or to escape persecution. Many have experienced child-specific threats, like assault by youth gangs and recruitment for special roles in organized crime, according to Sarnata Reynolds, director of the Refugee Program at Amnesty International USA. A smaller percentage, driven by devastating poverty, come to find work.
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