By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The United Nation’s Children’s Fund is urging
that the United States does not detain illegal
youngsters who are successful in sneaking into
The Fund also said Tuesday that every month,
thousands of children from Central America
risk being kidnapped, trafficked, raped, or
killed as they make their way to the United
States to seek refuge from brutal gangs and
stifling poverty, and there is no sign this
trend is letting up.
The U.N. agency said that in the first six
months of 2016, almost 26,000 unaccompanied
children and close to 29,700 people traveling
as a family, mostly mothers and young
children, were apprehended at the U.S. border
with Mexico. That is on top of the 16,000 from
El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who were
apprehended in Mexico in the first six months
of 2016, it reported.
At its peak, the first six months of 2014,
more than 44,500 unaccompanied minors were
apprehended at the U.S. border, the Fund
The Fund said there was no sign of this wave
of migrants letting up. By contrast, more than
60,000 unaccompanied minors, mainly from the
Middle East, entered Germany this year
The report puts into perspective the effort in
which Costa Rica agreed to house 200
youngsters while they are being prepared to
move to the United States under an Obama
The Children’s Fund said that in
addition to not detaining the illegal
immigrants, the United States should give them
full access to health care and other services
and should allow them to live with their
families whenever possible.
The Fund also noted that the illegal
immigrants who are caught and given civil
immigration hearings are more likely to be
deported if they do not have a lawyer. It said
40 percent of unrepresented youngsters are
deported compared to just 3 percent of those
who have lawyers.
In most cases, those who have lawyers also
have family with funds already living in the
The statement from the U.N. agency appears to
be the start of a campaign because news media
all over the world have aired the statement.
The release was based on a larger report. The
goal appears to be to generate support for a
new U.S. program.
The Fund repeated the often-stated claim that
the migrants are fleeing gang violence in
their homelands, although poverty plays a
The United States has special visas for
refugees who are victims of crime or of human
When unaccompanied child migrants are detained
at the U.S. border, they are sent to
government-operated shelters or are put in
foster care homes, according to wire service
reports. The Children's Fund said they are
often in this situation for about one month
and then are handed over to sponsors, who are
often relatives. Children traveling with a
parent risk swift deportation or months of
detention, it added.
Children's Fund graphic
report on Central American kids
“These vulnerable children, many of
whom are traveling without an adult, need
every step of the way, in their home countries
of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which
have some of the world's highest murder rates,
as they cross Mexico, and when they arrive in
the United States,” the Children’s Fund said in
its report, “Broken Dreams - Central American
children's dangerous journey to the United
Those who are deported face the risk of being
attacked or killed by the gangs they sought to
escape, the fund said.
On July 26, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services announced a new program to allow up to
9,000 migrants to enter the country legally.
This is the Central American Minors program in
which Costa Rica plays a part.
The Central American Minors Refugee/Parole
Program provides certain qualified children
in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras a
safe, legal and orderly alternative to the
dangerous journey that some children are
currently undertaking to the United States,
the U.S. agency said.
Only certain parents who are legally present
in the U.S. are eligible to be qualifying
parents and file for their children, said
the federal agency, adding that each
qualified child must be unmarried, under the
age of 21 and reside in El Salvador,
Guatemala or Honduras. In certain cases, the
parent of the qualifying child may also
qualify for access if that parent is the
legal spouse of the qualifying parent in the
United States, it said.
Applicants for the Central American
Minors program will be processed and
selected outside the United States,
according to the plan.
The Obama administration hopes the program
will slow the flow of minors to the U.S.
border. The U.N. Children’s Fund is involved
in making the selections of the refugees.
The three Central American nations, El
Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, have
special relationships with the United
States, based on a long history. For
example, many from El Salvador sought and
won legal refugee status in the States
during that country’s civil war from 1980 to
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy said
Tuesday that youngsters brought here under
the resettlement program would not be gang
The success of the program would seem to
hinge on the Nov. 8, U.S. elections. The
Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has said
he would seal off the southern border
against illegal immigrants.