Al-Ahed News – The administration of US President Donald Trump ramped up the expulsion of child migrants under an emergency rule to prevent the coronavirus pandemic as it is pressing ahead with its crackdown on asylum seekers. The child migrants, as young as ten, mostly from Central America and traveling alone, would normally be allowed to remain in the US to argue their asylum case in court.
But US border agencies began prohibiting asylum claims at the southern border under an emergency declaration, citing the COVID-19 epidemic, since late March.
The agencies claimed that they have to restrict asylum claims and border crossings during the pandemic. They expelled 600 child refugees only in April. Citing two recently expelled teens, the AP said border agencies told them that they wouldn’t be allowed to request asylum.
They were placed in cells, fingerprinted and given a medical exam, the AP reported. Then, after four days, they were flown back to their home country of Guatemala.
Migrants’ advocates denounced the US treatment of child asylum seekers as a pretext to dispense with federal protections for children. Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said the coronavirus pandemic is an excuse for expelling children.
She said that the administration could admit them and still counter its spread through measures like temperature checks and quarantines. “At the very heart of it,” she said, “it has always been about trying to block access to protection for children and families and asylum seekers.” Many of those children have left their home countries on their own. Others were sent along by parents from refugee camps in Mexico.
Trump’s anti-immigration policy was a centerpiece of his 2016 election campaign and is now a major issue as he seeks re-election this year. He has long promised to build a wall on the US border with Mexico to physically stop the inflow of migrants, but has failed to fulfill that pledge so far.
Trump had initially promised that Mexico would pay for his wall. But, when he failed to secure funding from Mexico, he turned to US Congress, which also refused to provide the funds.
Trump launched the “zero tolerance” policy in 2018 that saw more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the border, before the government backed down amid a massive public outcry.