WASHINGTON — Mexican officials have deported more than 13,000 of the 14,000 undocumented, unaccompanied minors who have been caught at Mexico’s southern border, a rate significantly higher than in the United States, according to government sources familiar with the situation.
Additionally, Mexican authorities have deported more than 64,000 of the estimated 69,000 adults that have been detained along their southern border this year.
Those numbers stand in stark contrast to the deportation of minor immigrants from the United States: None of the more than 60,000 Central American minors detained this year have been deported.
According to a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, those minors — who are estimated to total as many as 90,000 by year’s end — must first make their way through the legal system, which has seen significant backlogs, because they qualify to apply for asylum status.
“They are subject to removal, and are all issued Notices to Appear in immigration court, but due to the current backlog in the courts a [minor] encountered this year wouldn’t have yet had their day in immigration court. So all the [minors] encountered this year still have their cases pending,” the spokesman told BuzzFeed.
According to Mexican government sources, the vast majority of unaccompanied minors detained at the country’s southern border comes from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the majority are between the ages of 12 and 17, and most are boys. Government officials provide the minors with temporary shelter, food, clothing, and medical treatment while in custody.
Most unaccompanied minors are returned to their country of origin by plane by Mexican authorities, while Central American children who are accompanied by an adult family member are also provided with bus tickets to their countries of origin.
Of the 1,000 minors who have not been deported from Mexico, some are applying for asylum in Mexico, while others have petitioned to be allowed to travel to the U.S. border in order to be reunited with family in the United States.
A Mexican government spokesman declined to comment for this story. But a fact sheet prepared by the government on its efforts to stem the flow of minor immigrants notes that starting in July, Mexico began implementing a series of new measures focused on its southern border with Belize and Guatemala, including increased checkpoints, and additional immigrant shelters and medical services.
However, one Mexican official noted that the shift of emphasis by the government to its southern border comes as migration levels of Mexican nationals into the United States is a net zero, meaning the numbers of Mexicans immigrating into the country equal the number moving back to their home country.