Mon | Sep 28, 2020

Seeking refuge in US, children fleeing danger are expelled

Published:Thursday | August 6, 2020 | 9:39 AM
In this November 16, 2018, file photo, immigrants who entered the United States illegally wait to board a plane for a deportation flight. More than 2,000 unaccompanied children have been expelled since March under an emergency declaration enacted by the Trump administration, which has cited the coronavirus in refusing to provide them protections under federal anti-trafficking and asylum laws. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

HOUSTON (AP) — When officers led them out of a detention facility near the United States-Mexico border and onto a bus last month, the 12-year-old from Honduras and his 9-year-old sister believed they were going to a shelter so they could be reunited with their mother in the Midwest.

They had been told to sign a paper they thought would tell the shelter they didn’t have the coronavirus, the boy said.

The form was in English, a language he and his sister don’t speak. The only thing he recognised was the letters “COVID.”

Instead, the bus drove five hours to an airport where the children were told to board a plane.

“They lied to us,” he said. “They didn’t tell us we were going back to Honduras.”

More than 2,000 unaccompanied children have been expelled since March under an emergency declaration enacted by the Trump administration, which has cited the coronavirus in refusing to provide them protections under federal anti-trafficking and asylum laws.

Lawyers and advocates have sharply criticised the administration for using the global pandemic as a pretext to deport children to places of danger.

In court, meanwhile, the Trump administration has argued children it is seeking to expel are not entitled to protections under the Flores settlement, a 2-decade-old court agreement that sets standards for the detention of immigrant children.

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