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Children are Pawns at the Border

September 27, 2017
Plain English Version

A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas. LM Otero/AP File Photo

When he ran for president, Donald Trump had harsh things to say about America. He said the country was a “disaster.” Over the years, hundreds of thousands thought otherwise. People have poured over the border from Mexico and Central America.

Many came with their families. Some of their children are today the “Dreamers.” Whether they will get to stay in America is still undecided.

Other children did not come with their parents. Their parents are here as undocumented people. But they miss their kids. What they often do is pay smugglers to bring the children to the border. America has a policy. The policy is not to turn these children away.

Most of the time, the agency sends the children to relatives for care.

Officials are now targeting their parents or relatives. The parents are not here with papers. Officials removed them. They re-entered the United States. Then they had their children smuggled across the border.

These are cases of illegal re-entry. They are faster and easier to prove than a smuggling charge.

Getting to and across the border is dangerous for children. Some children said smugglers raped them. Smugglers held some children hostage and asked for more money. Some children said smugglers abandoned them as they tried to cross the border.

The government said the smuggling was a “humanitarian threat.” The new effort is a deterrent.

Immigration advocates have a different view. They say it is a heartless way to try to reduce smuggling. One expert said all the parents are doing is trying to get their kids to safety.

Smuggling charges are hard to prove. It is hard to get witnesses to testify. Targeting the parents should be more successful. When you find the parents, it is also easy to try them for other crimes such as giving false statements.

Advocates against immigration support these kinds of cases. Trump has made no secret of his plans to go after undocumented parents living in America. He wants to target parents who pay smugglers to bring in their children.

Officials say many of the children are fleeing violence. It does not matter. Paying smugglers puts the children in danger. Some of the money goes to drug cartels. This is a new business for them.

For example, smugglers held a group of children at gunpoint. Their families had to put up $2,000 for their release. The children went to other smugglers. This group also demanded money.

For children and parents, crossing the border has to be worth the danger.

Source: The New York Times September 24, 2017


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