The U.S. may have violated international treaties in the way it has handled thousands of child immigrants being detained in facilities across the country, the Honduran ambassador to the U.S. is claiming.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection have scrambled to handle a surge of tens of thousands of “Unaccompanied Children,” or UACs, who come mostly from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.
Instead of being immediately returned to their home countries after being apprehended, U.S. immigration policy requires the UACs to be housed in federal facilities while they are awaiting deportation proceedings.
But Honduras’ ambassador to the U.S. takes issue with the process, saying that deportation may violate international treaties.
“By order of the president, we are doing an in-depth study at the Embassy and the Foreign Ministry of this issue [of deportation],” said the ambassador, Jorge Milla Reyes, according to a Reuters article, which was translated from Spanish.
“We have serious doubts about the possibility of violation of some norms reflected in international treaties,” said Reyes without specifying which international treaties the U.S. may have violated.
In a visit last week to Washington D.C., Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez blamed the U.S. for failing to do enough to fight against drug trafficking, which some claim is one of the main reasons that young people are fleeing Central American countries.
But Hernandez also seemed to lend support to child immigrants who end up making the trek to the U.S.
“I’ve asked the United States government to treat this matter with the utmost care from the humanitarian perspective,” said Orlando Hernandez after an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “They are kids in search of their parents and they have the complete right to be with their parents.”
Like Reyes, Orlando Hernandez also said that he has “serious doubts” about whether the U.S. deportation process respects international treaty.
While neither Honduran official explained why they believe the U.S. may be in violation of international law, groups like Human Rights Watch and others have in the past claimed that U.S. policy violates immigrants’ rights to reunite with their families.
So far in 2014, 92 percent more UACs that have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border compared to the same time last year. Most have attempted to enter the U.S. at the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
After being apprehended, they are transported to an immigration station in McAllen, Texas. But because of the recent influx, DHS and Customs and Border Protection have had to send thousands to outside facilities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the effort, while the Department of Health and Human Services is working to provide housing and other amenities to the UACs while they are under federal watch.
Up to 1,200 UACs will be housed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Another 600 will be kept at both Ventura County Naval Base in Oxnard, Calif. and at Fort Sill Army Base in Lawton, Okla. Facilities in Virginia and Maryland will also reportedly be used to house the minors. Nearly 100 non-profit grantees throughout the U.S. will house nearly 6,000 of the youth.
Though U.S. officials have not provided clarification on the deportation process — including how long the process will take and how many of the UACs will end up staying in the U.S. — HHS will attempt to identify relatives or sponsors for the UACs. The relatives and sponsors are responsible for making sure that the UACs attend their court appointments.