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Think Progress/LA Times: US is Deporting Children to Their Deaths

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Think Progress’ headline today is horrific: “Five Children Murdered After They Were Deported Back To Honduras.”

That’s right: in the last few years, tens of thousands of children have fled three Central American countries — Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — places so violent that they are statistically twice as dangerous for civilians as Iraq was during the height of the war.  These kids have fled to countries all over the region, for example, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize, Panama, and Costa Rica.  But when they’ve made it to the US, they’ve been greeted by Tea Partiers screaming at them to go home, members of Congress claiming that they are lying about their stories of violence, Congressional inquiries that are actually excuses to attack the deferred action/DACA program, and legislation seeking to expedite their removals.

Under both domestic and international law, if the children meet credible asylum criteria, they are supposed to be granted due process and provided court hearings to determine the danger of sending them home.  But in practice, what is supposed to happen often does not, as was seen in another eye-opening story this week, about an 11-year-old US citizen who was mistakenly sent to a detention center and spent more than a month there before he was discovered.  As Laura Lichter, an immigration attorney and the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association told the Los Angeles Times:

I think the fact that a U.S. citizen was detained and for this long before anyone actually realized that there was even the possibility that they had detained a U.S. citizen shows you just how little respect and attention is being given to people’s cases.  What this shows you is that there really is no due process here and that the system is only working in a way to deport people from the country. It is not working to protect people’s claims.

And because the system is not working as it should — because certain interests are actively working against the children — young migrants are being sent home to their deaths.

Below are some excerpts from the Los Angeles Times story that the Think Progress piece is based on:

“There are many youngsters who only three days after they’ve been deported are killed, shot by a firearm,” said Hector Hernandez, who runs the morgue in San Pedro Sula. “They return just to die.”

At least five, perhaps as many as 10, of the 42 children slain here since February had been recently deported from the U.S., Hernandez said…

In one case, a teenage boy was shot to death hours after arriving in San Pedro Sula on a deportation flight, according to the boy’s cousin, who refused to identify himself or the boy to The Times for fear of reprisal from neighborhood gangs.

To do so, he said, “I would be killing my entire family”…

Valdete Wileman, a nun who runs the Center for Returned Migrants in San Pedro Sula, said about 80% of the children who had been returned from the U.S. had been seeking to escape the gang violence…

Just a few days after Sosa, now 19, was deported from the U.S., he was shot at by gang members while walking to the corner store for a soda. He said he didn’t have allegiances with any gang and didn’t know why he was targeted.

His second unsuccessful emigration attempt came after a friend was fatally shot and left to die in a neighborhood alley.

While saving money for a third attempt, he rarely steps outside the front door, declining birthday party invitations and shunning soccer games in the neighborhood.

“If you leave your home, you don’t know if you’ll return.”

He knows the trip north will be perilous but says he doesn’t see any choice.

“What am I going to do?” he said. “It’s more dangerous to stay here.”