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Children Deported: The Real Victims of America's Broken Immigration System, According to Report [WATCH]

First Posted: Mar 19, 2014 10:52 AM EDT
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The United Nations Refugee Agency has just published a report that documents the trauma and suffering felt by a large number of children who become victims of the immigration system.

More than 60,000 children arrive in the United States from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico -- and make the voyage alone, without their parents. Many children are in search of their parents, who may be undocumented, unlisted, and working to send funds back to their home countries. Some other children travel to the United States so that they can escape homes foreboding lives thrashed with gang violence.

With good reason, these children trek to the land of supposed opportunity, and once they are here, they are confronted with U.S. immigration policy. Immigration and Custom agents apprehend these children and a majority of the youngsters are deported back across the border, to somewhere unfamiliar -- no matter their age, and these children sometimes fall victims to Mexico's underbelly: cartels, human traffickers, pedophiles, etc.

Children on the Run, the new report, was crafted after researchers questioned just over 400 children, between the age of 12 and 17, about their long, chancy expedition from their home countries, and why they'd come to the United States. The report showed that more than half of the children (53 percent) wished to be reunited with family living in the United States, though 58 percent of the children indicated that reunions came second to escaping violent home or neighborhoods.

The interviews unearthed frightening details about these children's lives. Fifteen-year-old Salvadoran Maritza shared that she was being pursued by a gang member who "liked" her. The particular gang often stole young girls, raped them and disposed of them in plastic bags. Guatemalan David offered stories about a neighborhood gang that stalked him, threatened him, and once abducted him and his cousin -- keeping them tied up for three hours before they were able to escape. Fourteen-year-old Mexican Miguel stated, "I'm tired of so much crime, of so much blood on the streets. Reynosa -- it's hell for a young person."

Honduran criminal group "Los Espinoza" routinely videotapes children receiving training in the use of AK-47s and shot guns. On these recordings, song verses glamorizing drug trafficking are paired with images of 12-year-old firing semi-automatic weapons. What's shown is only rehearsal for real-life violent engagements that include kidnapping, theft and murder. The criminal group poaches children from their family, and use the minors to "act with impunity," according to La Tribuna. These children are difficult to arrest and prosecute, and young boys can be easily drawn to the criminal life.

Children attempting to escape a life of violence and drug culture should be aided not abandoned and left to return to desperate situations. The author of the UN report indicated that the young expatriates' reasons for leaving their countries are classified under "international protection needs," that term suggesting that it's the responsibility of the States and other nations to protect these young people because they risk violations of their rights in their home country. The international community should feel obliged to step in to ensure basic rights, and United States should hold the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency accountable for the treatment of these children when they are seized at the border.

On the other side of the immigration, when undocumented parents are taken, and children are left without caregivers, many of these children are placed in foster care because there's no one to take care for them. These children become an added expense for the state.

According to an NPR report, 5,000 children are thought to have been left without a parent or guardian in the United States after their parents have been deported. Child custody proceedings are difficult when tethered with deportation because social workers are unable to cross borders, parents aren't allowed to be physically present at proceedings and often parents don't have lawyers to represent them. Parents are contacted via phone or webcam, but it's not comparable to being present at the case.

President Barack Obama recently stated that he planned to handle deportation more humanely, but one doesn't know what that means in relation to children entering and being expelled from the country alone. 

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