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The Lost Dream:

Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

October, 2006

of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border October, 2006 Painting by a child migrant depicting his

Painting by a child migrant depicting his journey from Central America to the United States

A Report From

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration & Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS)

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

In this context it is necessary to mention trafficking in human beings — especially women
In this context it is necessary to mention trafficking in human beings — especially women
In this context it is necessary to mention trafficking in human beings — especially women

In this context it is necessary to mention trafficking in human beings — especially women — which flourishes where opportunities to improve their standard of living or even to survive are limited. It becomes easy for the trafficker to offer his own “services” to the victims, who often do not even vaguely suspect what awaits them. In some cases there are women and girls who are destined to be exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry, too.

— Pope Benedict XVI,

2006 World Day

of Migrants and Refugees Message

All photos courtesy of the Catholic Legal

Immigration Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

Introduction

Introduction I n October 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Commit- tee on

I n October 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Commit-

tee on Migration directed a fact-finding delegation in the Southwest border region of

the United States and Northern Mexico to examine the situation and treatment of unac-

companied alien children and victims of human trafficking.

San Xavier

Mission near

Tucson, AZ.

Participating in the delegation were Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes, Bishop of San Bernardino, California and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration; Most Reverend Jaime Soto, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, California; Most Reverend Armando Ochoa, Bishop of El Paso, Texas; and Most Reverend John B. McCormack, Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire. The bishops were accompanied by staff from the Office of Migration & Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/MRS), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

The delegation had the opportunity to speak directly with migrants in Mexico and the U.S. and to learn first hand of their concerns. The delegation members also met with a broad cross-section of agencies and individuals involved with or knowledgeable about these populations. Among those visited were Church officials, federal immigration and law enforcement agencies, community-based organizations, legal service providers, and other individuals and groups with important perspectives on comprehensive immigration issues.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Young migrants at a boarding house in Altar, MX. The delegation learned of their motives and experiences as they travel to and from the US.

motives and experiences as they travel to and from the US. While the delegation encountered many

While the delegation encountered many individuals whose lives had been shattered, families who had been separated, and children who had undergone terrible hardships, they were moved by the deep faith of many of these migrants and their continued struggle to achieve a better life for themselves and their families. There was misery and frustration, but there was also hope.

The treatment of foreign- born individuals in the United States has long been

a concern of the Catholic community and the USCCB. Scripture reminds us that we should treat the stranger among us humanely. Every day, thousands of migrants from diverse social, economic and religious backgrounds live and work in the United States, provide necessary labor and services that allow our society to prosper, and enrich our communities. Many of these individuals migrate to this country, abandoning their native homes in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the migration experience to the United States can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Our current US immigration policies too often mistreat the most vulnerable migrants, disregard domestic labor needs and fail to address legitimate national security issues.

Regrettably, not all immigrants in the United States have willingly migrated to this country or voluntarily perform labor and services here. A considerable number of men, women and children are criminally trafficked into the United States to perform forced labor, including sexual exploitation. Many trafficking victims are held captive and exposed to horrific situations involving extensive physical and emotional abuse. The clandestine nature of human trafficking makes it difficult to measure the extent of this problem in the United States. However, reliable estimates suggest that thousands of foreign-born victims, including minor children, are trafficked into the country each year.

Another migrant population that is particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation is unaccompanied alien children (UAC). These children find themselves physically present in the United States or endeavoring to enter the country without the supervision and protection of a parent or guardian. The majority of these children endure

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

traumatic migratory experiences that can include physical assault, sexual and emotional abuse, and even death. They need protection, as well as compassionate and humane treatment by governmental and non-governmental agencies. The situation and needs of survivors of human trafficking and UAC’s are regularly disregarded in the current U.S. immigration system. Vulnerable men, women and children are at the center of the U.S. immigration debate. It is important that migrants be treated equitably and with respect.

The USCCB delegation hopes that the observations and recommendations in this report will lead to a better response towards and treatment of foreign born migrants in the United States, assistance to migrants on their journey to reach the US, and programs to address the core reasons for migration. The bishops and their staff extend their gratitude and support to those individuals and organizations providing very important care and assistance to all migrants, especially those whose vulnerabilities expose them to great harm.

 

ACRONYMS

CBP

United States Customs & Border Protection

CCAMYN

Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado

CLINIC

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

CRS

Catholic Relief Services

DHS

United States Department of Homeland Security

DHHS

United States Department of Health & Human Services

DOJ

United States Department of Justice

EOIR

Executive Office for Immigration Review

ICE

United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement

ICMC

International Catholic Migration Commission

INA

Immigration & Nationality Act

INS

United States Immigration & Naturalization Service

LPR

Lawful Permanent Resident Alien

MRS/

Migration & Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

USCCB

NGO

Non-Governmental Organization

ORR/

Office of Refugee Resettlement, United States Department of Health & Human Services

DHHS

SIJ

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

TPS

Temporary Protected Status

TVPA

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000

UAC

Unaccompanied Alien Children

USCIS

United States Citizenship & Immigration Services

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Delegation Observations & Recommendations

The delegation gathers near Tucson, AZ at the San Xavier Mission. Pictured are bishops and MRS and diocesan staff from Phoenix and Tucson who work on issues of child trafficking and provide services to unaccompanied migrant children.

and provide services to unaccompanied migrant children. Migration – The Journey Begins Observation 1: Why We

Migration – The Journey Begins

Observation 1: Why We Migrate – Leaving Family & Home

The bishops began their trip in the City of Altar in Northern Mexico, visiting the Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado (CCAMYN) where they shared a meal with adult migrants who were starting their journey to the United States or returning after failing to enter. The CCAMYN is a Catholic-run migrant center that provides temporary housing, food, medical services and educational materials and training on the hazards of undocumented migration through the border region between the Southern United States and Northern Mexico. This not-for-profit organization began its operations in 2001 to care for the large number of migrants in the region who face severe economic, social and environmental hardships. Several volunteer workers described how at first their work involved providing meals and clothing to hundreds of migrants in the streets. The city’s parks and public spaces were overcrowded with migrants, many sleeping on benches and nearly everyone uncertain about what the next day would bring. The migrants have mostly been temporary visitors, using the City of Altar as a staging ground for their final journey into the United States. Migrants spend their time in Altar resting, contracting with smugglers or seeking guidance on how to make their entry.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

The migrants themselves described the difficulties and the hazards involved in their journey, many speaking of criminal assaults and terrible environmental conditions, while others described multiple failed attempts at entering the United States and the deaths of relatives or fellow travelers. One migrant described how his family’s failed migration from Southern Mexico has nearly destroyed his marriage and remains a major rift between him and his spouse. These migrants also spoke of their family’s needs and their own yearning to provide for them. One migrant explained that he endures these unbearable conditions so that his children can live and study in their native home and not be forced to migrate to the United States. These men agreed that no one should be forced to migrate from their homes to feed their families and that the journey, although difficult, is at present the only way their families will be fed.

The delegation then visited migrants staying in “boarding houses”, where the majority of migrants stay in cramped and unhealthy conditions either en route to the US or after deportation. Several men, women and children discussed personal and social difficulties faced in their countries of origin that led to their migration. Many described the difficulty of seeking employment or an education in their respective countries.

“Every migrant that receives our care has a family, children and a home. They have chosen to leave that home out of necessity. Their options are limited and they go to the United States to work and to provide for hungry mouths at home.”

Francisco Garcia, CCAMYN Director, described the migration phenomena in the city of Altar, Mexico and the surrounding border region as being both influenced by and influencing economic activity. According to his estimates, the mass migrations that are experienced today can be

attributed to the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994. Although the agreement promised free trade and easier flows of capital and labor among its signatory nations, the results for the Mexican people have been a loss of work and resources. In addition, the increased foreign exploitation of Mexican resources caused a massive social unrest in Southern Mexico. As a result, workers in Southern Mexico and Central America compete for few employment opportunities and struggle to protect their families from social and economic instability.

– Francisco Garcia, CCAMYN Director

Additionally, as the United States concentrated enforcement activities along traditional crossing routes, the migration pattern shifted to remote cities like Altar, Mexico and more dangerous routes. During the summer months, desert temperatures can rise well above 100° in this region, greatly increasing the likelihood of exposure deaths for migrants crossing through this desert region. The economic impact on cities like Altar, once primarily an agricultural community, has been significant. Altar now caters primarily to migrant services. Unfortunately, this increased economic activity has led to an increased presence of smugglers that is adversely affecting the community and its residents. Many community leaders fear that as more school-aged children seek employment in the migration economy rather than pursue an education, the long-term impact will be the loss of a generation of workers and leaders.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Bishops concelebrate Mass and bless the migrants on their journey in Altar, MX.

Mass and bless the migrants on their journey in Altar, MX. The migrant children in Altar

The migrant children in Altar described horrific experiences, including sexual and physical assaults, being abandoned by family members and traveling companions and unable to find food and shelter throughout their travels. Girls as young as 12 years of age described being drugged, groped and raped by law enforcement officials and other migrants. Some children were forced to resort to prostitution because it was the only way to finance their housing, food, and journey.

A 72 year-old migrant described multiple entries into the United States dating back to the

1960’s to perform seasonal labor in Texas, Georgia, Florida and other areas in the Southern United States. He was confident this would be his final journey. He had successfully moved his family to the United States and found it extremely difficult to maintain circular movement between the two countries. His physical appearance displayed intense exhaustion, similarly shared by the other migrant workers; however, he was optimistic about his opportunities in the United States. His only regret was having failed to apply for legalization in the United States when this was available to him. He described being confused and fearful of asking the US government for lawful status.

Other migrants described the economic difficulties experienced in their country of origin which gave rise to their migration. One migrant explained how the devaluation of coffee

in Honduras caused by the government’s deregulation of prices, led to his unemployment

and inability to find employment. The only way he could provide for his wife and five children was for him to leave Honduras and seek employment in the United States. This is a common occurrence in Central and South American societies where the depletion of natural

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

resources causes high unemployment and leads to mass migration in search of work, often to destinations in the United States.

Recommendations:

u

We encourage the government of the United States to develop and promote a bi- national commission, comprised of governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations with experience and knowledge in migration and economic issues, to survey and analyze economic and political factors triggering migration to the United States, with emphasis on issues relating to women, unaccompanied children, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable populations.

u

We recommend that the government of the United States develop strategies to assist countries experiencing economic difficulties or social unrest, leading to mass migration of men, women and children to the United States. The US government should tackle migration factors in these communities and work with interested governments to provide for their citizens.

u

Cross-border partnerships between governmental, community and faith-based organizations should be developed to provide migrants in border communities with education and services to better understand the migration process. These programs should provide educational materials on the dangers of migration, and medical and support services to injured migrants.

u

The US government, in partnership with the Mexican government, should study the impact of migration on border communities and small businesses and coordinate statistical information relating to migration in these areas. Local businesses adversely impacted by increased migration should be eligible for financial assistance and development support.

Observation 2: We Are Children, Treat Us As Children

Unaccompanied alien children are typically obliged to leave their homes in search of work, security or reunification with family members already in the United States. Many unaccompanied alien children are victims of poverty, domestic violence, abusive child labor practices, human trafficking, rape, forced prostitution, or armed conflict in their home countries. They travel long distances to reach the United States in the hope that they can find personal safety and a better life for themselves. In other instances, children are unaccompanied because they have been separated from their families, leaving them to complete a very difficult journey alone. Regardless of their reasons for migrating, unaccompanied alien children are highly vulnerable and need specialized support and guidance.

The delegation visited shelter care and foster home facilities that are used to house unaccompanied alien children in Houston and El Paso, Texas. These facilities closely

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Mural at Casa San Juan painted by one of the migrant residents that portrays his journey across the desert. This shelter in Houston for migrants was one of the stops of the delegation, where a Mass was celebrated and a meal was shared with the migrants.

Mass was celebrated and a meal was shared with the migrants. resemble domestic shelter and foster

resemble domestic shelter and foster care programs. However, detained migrant children in federal “shelter care” detention are treated much differently than domestic child care programs. Although the shelter staff provides counseling, education, housing and other services to children, the children are awaiting removal from the United States and are restricted in their movement. The delegation also observed the types of detention practices used

and how detained children conduct themselves in these different settings. Many facilities for unaccompanied alien children resemble the “lock-down” detention settings favored by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), where children are detained in large-scale facilities, some of which care for over 100 children on a daily basis. This institutionalization of children is incompatible with US child welfare practices and creates problems for

The Lost Dream: Manuel’s Story

M anuel is a 14-year-old boy from Honduras in federal custody. He left home months

ago carrying all the hopes of his family. They had little food and his parents could not find enough work to support the fam- ily. Manuel is the oldest of five children. The family gathered what resources they could and sent Manuel to the United States to do what he could to earn money and help them all survive.

After a frightening journey through Mexico, harassed by gangs, riding the trains (he was witness to another migrant

losing his foot after falling from a train), and crossing the desert with other boys, he reached the border where he was caught by “La Migra.” He was placed by the government in a shelter with other unaccompanied children.

While talking with the bishops, Manuel burst into tears. He said he wanted to help his family because they are so poor, but he realizes he cannot. He will soon be returned home where his family will still be destitute. He did not succeed in the quest he was sent on and has no hope now to help his family.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

shelter staff, particularly in developing working relationships with vulnerable and often traumatized children. Of note, however, was the difference observed between children’s experience in small-group home settings and foster care programs and their experience in larger, institutional facilities. For example, the bishops observed that children appeared more relaxed and child-staff relationships were more individualized within the former types of programs.

The staff of federal immigrant detention programs discussed increased difficulties in caring for unaccompanied alien children, providing for their welfare and reuniting them with family members in the United States. Several reasons were mentioned, including the immigration status of family members, language and cultural barriers, unfamiliarity with US immigration policies, growing adolescent medical and mental health issues, and general distrust of law enforcement personnel. Undocumented parents, who are in the United States, are fearful of coming forward to “claim” their detained children, because they fear their own removal from the United States. This leaves children alone to face the United States immigration system. Finally, the arduous journey and circumstances of their lives has led to more and more of these children being diagnosed with serious medical and mental health problems. These children require specialized treatment and care.

The delegation spoke with federal representatives and detention staff who expressed concern about the nature of the detention and placement of unaccompanied alien children. It has become increasingly difficult to find appropriate placement for these children.

While general child welfare practices promote the use of least restrictive facilities, foster and small group care, and “parental-like”

care, the bishops are concerned that such principles are not adhered to in federal detention practices and that even children 12 years of age and younger are sometimes held in large institutional facilities. These children have no criminal background and are confined solely because of their immigration status. It is important that children be reunited with available family members or placed in the least restrictive setting, such as family foster care, that is appropriate for their age and circumstances.

care, that is appropriate for their age and circumstances. The Catholic Charities office in Houston, Texas

The Catholic Charities office in Houston, Texas has developed a mental health program that works with children to transition into life in the United States or where removal may occur, provides counseling while the child is detained. The

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Bishop Ochoa and Bonna Kol meet with unaccompanied migrant children at Catholic Charities in Houston.

children are encouraged to illustrate their migration experiences and through this artistic interpretation deal with the trauma or depression caused by their situation. Through the support and guidance of clinical psychologists, the children served have been able to illustrate through pictures the difficult and often violent circumstances that have led them to be in the United States. These children have traveled hundreds of miles on foot, risked their health in boxcars and been physically and/or sexually assaulted. As the bishops and their staff listened to these heart-wrenching stories, they understood the difficulties experienced by these children and their families. One young girl spoke through tears, begging the bishops for their support and prayers not only for herself, but for any child that makes the difficult journey alone.

Many of the children who met with the bishops discussed the difficulty and horrors experienced in their respective journeys. Many had witnessed death and experienced violence. Although the normal age range of unaccompanied alien children is 12-17 years old, children as young as 18 months are detained in federal immigration facilities in the United States. These children and their families often view their failure to enter the United States and find employment as a personal failure and disappointment.

Recommendations:

u

Federal detention programs should coordinate an agreement with federal law enforcement agencies that allows for the safe release of unaccompanied alien children to family members, without exposing an individual to apprehension or removal while reuniting with a child. Parents and guardians in particular, regardless of immigration status, should have assistance in the reunification process without fear of removal and further family separation.

u

ORR and other federal agencies responsible for the detention of immigrants should prioritize future program development and funding for placements in foster care and small group home facilities or detention alternatives and reduce the use of large-scale facilities.

Observation 3: How Can You Listen to Our Stories If We Do Not Speak the Same Language?

Other complications relating to reunification involve communication barriers between care providers for children in custody and children and family members, causing some families to navigate family reunification processes without someone to speak with in their own language. When a care provider is unable to communicate with children or their family members in their primary language, the system of care may not be able to ensure safe and appropriate family reunification or fully assess a child’s needs. Unfortunately, this practice also potentially exposes children to individuals who are not acting in the child’s best interests, and in fact may be involved in criminal activities.

0

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Bishop Barnes speaks with migrants at Casa Juan Diego shelter for migrants in Houston. Unaccompanied

Bishop Barnes speaks with migrants at Casa Juan Diego shelter for migrants in Houston.

Unaccompanied alien children migrating to the United States arrive from a number of nations including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, China, or India. Children of other nationalities migrate to the United States as well. Not every alien child who enters the United States is Spanish-speaking or able to communicate in the English language to an extent that allows them to speak with law enforcement, legal service providers or social welfare agencies. An increasing number of children arrive from indigenous communities or ethnically diverse populations, speaking languages and dialects that are unfamiliar to Spanish-speaking workers. For example, although Guatemala is generally recognized as a Spanish-speaking country, Spanish is not spoken universally among its population and many citizens have little understanding of the Spanish language. Twenty one distinct languages are spoken throughout Guatemala, often exclusively by specific indigenous groups. How can children from these indigenous communities communicate their concerns and request assistance from law enforcement officials or social welfare providers? Immigration officials, child care professionals and immigration advocates throughout the delegation’s trip reported difficulties in understanding and communicating with unaccompanied alien children and family members who are unable to speak English and whose primary language is indigenous to the region. Some individuals appeared unaware that some migrants from Mexico and Central America did not speak Spanish.

According to legal service providers and field coordinators, there are an increasing number of indigenous children arriving in the United States, many from rural areas in Southern Mexico and Central America. This population has created great difficulties in placement decisions and legal representation. Social and legal service providers may find it difficult to develop professional working relationships with unaccompanied alien children who are

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

unable to speak a common language and as a result find it difficult to pursue the child’s best interests.

Recommendations:

u

We encourage all government agencies that interact with undocumented populations to implement linguistic and cultural identification programs and trainings. Each agency should have language interpreter resources that are available for all foreign languages encountered.

u

Immigration enforcement agencies and government-contracted child care providers should be required to have access to multi-lingual interpreter services for interviewing non-citizens.

u

We encourage increased resources for the national field coordinator program, shelter care facilities, social welfare programs, interpreter services and legal counsel, providing services to unaccompanied alien children.

u

In situations involving communication problems with indigenous populations, individuals and organizations should pursue independent interpreter services in a timely manner. This is particularly true for Guatemalans who currently show a lower release rate than other national groups which prevents the release of children. Detention policies should prioritize the safe release of vulnerable children and indigenous populations to family members in the US while immigration removal proceedings or an immigration application is pending.

Observation 4: We Recognize the Dangers, But For Us There Really Is No Other Option.

A majority of unaccompanied alien children in custody are apprehended while attempting to enter the United States without inspection. Many children discussed multiple entry attempts to the United States and the feeling of disappointment and failure at having been unsuccessful. These children assert that their journey will continue until they have successfully entered the country. Unfortunately, multiple entry attempts greatly increase a child’s exposure to criminal, social and environmental dangers.

Unaccompanied alien children who are apprehended by law enforcement at the border or at a port of entry to the United States are generally placed in immigration removal proceedings and then transferred to the custody of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, US Department of Health and Human Services (ORR/DHHS) while the proceedings are pending. However, children from a contiguous country of the United States — Mexico, for example — are processed differently and expeditiously returned to their country of origin without a hearing before an immigration judge. Throughout the delegation trip, immigration officials referenced standard policy that Mexican children

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

apprehended at a port of entry or along the US border are returned to Mexico without review by an immigration judge. This practice is based on an international agreement between the United States and Mexico for the safe return of Mexican nationals. The bishops saw the harmful reality of these agreements for many children who might otherwise qualify for immigration benefits in the United States if they were entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge. Also, the risk that child trafficking victims are returned to Mexico without further investigation and services becomes greater when the standard practice is expedited removal.

Unaccompanied alien children experience all the dangers faced by undocumented adults. However, their age and inexperience make them highly vulnerable to injury and abuse. Many children who spoke with the bishops described their families’ extreme poverty, their difficulties in pursuing an education, and the violence caused by social unrest in their communities. They explained how such experiences oblige them to seek employment in the United States in order to provide for themselves and their families. Other children have not seen their parents in years, many since they were infants, because their parents have been in the United States for many years. These children, regardless of their purpose, are driven to enter the United States to escape a sad reality that should never be experienced by any child.

Recommendations:

u

The U.S. government should review repatriation agreements with contiguous countries that do not reflect its commitments and responsibilities to certain vulnerable populations. Federal agencies and non-governmental organizations should examine the repatriation process and the effectiveness of organizations involved.

u

A

multinational unaccompanied child support network should be developed that

provides housing, counseling and legal services to children migrating to the United States.

u

A

public awareness campaign should be developed that highlights the social and

environmental risks relating to migratory movements, especially to vulnerable populations.

Observation 5: We Are Victims, Yet We Are Not Protected From Those Who Harm Us.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was enacted to combat the trafficking of human beings through the effective prosecution and punishment of trafficking violators and the protection of trafficking victims. These efforts are undermined when federal, state and local law enforcement personnel are uninformed or unaware of the rights and protections that are available under US law.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

The delegation met with multiple federal agencies responsible for the enforcement

of immigration and trafficking laws in the United States. These officers described their role in law enforcement and what their mandated

“There is a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. We must show new energy in fighting back against an old evil. Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.”

– President George W. Bush, Sept 2003.

responsibilities were along the US borders and interior of the country according to federal immigration laws. However, the federal agents appeared unaware of their responsibilities in dealing with trafficking victims, especially children. Often the issue of human trafficking was confused with apprehension of human smuggling offenders. The clear priority among these agencies is law enforcement and the removal of undocumented immigrants. However, there was no acknowledgement among many of the federal agencies of a role in the identification of victims of human trafficking. Each agency deferred to others to carry out this function. There is a significant difference between acts relating to human smuggling and human trafficking. Although the two are often related, human trafficking and its victims must be treated differently. In general, the difference between these two acts is the motivating factor of the smuggler/trafficker and the voluntary participation of the victim.

The bishops met with the US Attorney’s Office in Houston, Texas and were given a general outline of collaborative efforts in the City of Houston for the protection of trafficking victims. Through the leadership of the US Attorney’s Office

Justice Served:

United States v. Salazar / United States v. Molina

T he US Attorney in Houston,

Texas has successfully pros-

ecuted multiple cases involv-

ing hundreds of women from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras - including several minors - who were illegally traf- ficked into the United States to serve as prostitutes through the use of force, fraud and coercion for the financial benefit of Texas-based human trafficking operations. These young women entered the United States under false pretenses, having been promised better lives, work in the United

States, and romantic companionship in this country. The women arrived in Texas, were forced to cohabitate with each other in small apartments leased by their traf- fickers and required to work as prostitutes in area bars. The women were victim- ized and threatened with physical assault and bodily injury, causing them to be too afraid to escape or report these crimes. Ultimately, those charged with conspiring to sex traffic these young women and girls were sentenced on these offenses.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Migrants chat with delegation members outside a boarding house in Altar, MX. They expressed concern

Migrants chat with delegation members outside a boarding house in Altar, MX. They expressed concern about the lack of welcome and ill treatment many migrants experience in the U.S.

and the active participation of community-based organizations, an anti-trafficking task force has evolved that is a model for other communities. The US Attorney has successfully managed the development of a completely community-based coalition whose purpose is to identify trafficking situations, prosecute offenders and protect victims. The US Attorney recognizes the limitations of such coalitions and his ability to prosecute traffickers. In Houston, the anti-trafficking task force has helped rescue and provide assistance to nearly 100 victims of human trafficking, and has convicted multiple defendants on trafficking charges involving forced prostitution and forced labor.

The TVPA promotes human rights and the protection of persons, including children, against any threat of violence and exploitation. It seeks to eliminate human trafficking and prosecute to the fullest extent its perpetrators through the establishment of institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons and provides penalties for violations of the law. Additionally, it offers victims of human trafficking assistance and services to handle the traumatic impact of these crimes. The bishops discussed trafficking-related investigations and prosecutions with law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and legal aid organizations in Houston, Texas. The anti-trafficking partnership in Houston was highly effective in prosecuting trafficking offenses and shutting down several operations. However, in relation to services and assistance for the child trafficking victims involved in these cases, the work in Houston was ineffective. Several law enforcement officials did not know how to refer the children to ORR/DHHS for appropriate care or trafficking benefits. As a result, several child victims were without services and some were removed from the United States. In many

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

cases, child trafficking victims are not referred for benefits and services, and are placed in removal proceedings. Law enforcement officials throughout the delegation demonstrated a misunderstanding on how child victims are identified and referred for benefits and services. As a result, many children are not receiving the necessary treatment and support that is needed to handle the trauma of human trafficking.

The greatest difficulties arise in the identification of trafficking schemes, recruiting witness testimony and defining the trafficking situation under federal and state laws. Better efforts must be made to inform the public about human trafficking and methods to identify victims. Federal law enforcement agencies must accept responsibility for the protection of all trafficking victims, regardless of their nationality.

Recommendations:

u

The US government should work in partnership with foreign states to promote and develop programs with regional, state and local governmental and non-governmental organizations that help trafficking victims reintegrate in society and provide victims with appropriate assistance and services.

u

We encourage the implementation of international agreements with the purpose of monitoring and combating human trafficking internationally, especially trafficking operations that impact vulnerable populations and children. Anti-trafficking agreements should encourage the participation of trafficking nations. Further international anti-trafficking partnerships will increase the understanding of human trafficking and improve the capacity to serve victims and prosecute traffickers.

u

Federal and state law enforcement agencies, including border patrol and customs enforcement, should develop training programs in consultation with non- governmental agencies and trafficking service providers that address human trafficking topics and interviewing techniques for victims of trauma and crime. A better understanding of the human trafficking laws and the role of law enforcement in anti-trafficking programs, will improve “first response” resources.

u

The US Department of Labor should enhance its efforts to combat labor trafficking and develop programs specific to forced labor and child labor issues.

u

We encourage increased administrative and legislative advocacy to facilitate the access to benefits for child trafficking victims, improve the eligibility standards for trafficking victims generally, and develop independent anti-trafficking law enforcement divisions.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Bishops meet with the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Donald J. DeGabrielle,

Bishops meet with the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Donald J. DeGabrielle, Jr. to discuss child trafficking issues.

Observation 6: We Are Children and Need to Be With Our Families.

The bishops spoke with individuals and groups who provide counseling, legal representation and other services to unaccompanied alien children. Their common concern was the difficulty in reuniting a child with his family in the United States. Unaccompanied alien children generally know where their families are in the US and that they are unwilling or unable to come forward to claim them. Many children who are unable to be reunited with family members demonstrate depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. In extreme cases, children have been abandoned or orphaned in their country of origin and realize that deportation will lead them into the difficult choice of living as a gang member or street child. These children demonstrate the same behavioral characteristics as any child who is separated from their family.

The delegation became aware of the frustrations faced by the children and the shelter staff who are unable to complete reunification. The US immigration laws permit very little legal relief for unaccompanied alien children seeking family reunification. The law does not extend any protection to a child or parent seeking to be reunited in the United States and, unfortunately, the US immigration officials have used detained children as bait for the enforcement of immigration laws against parents and guardians.

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the primary federal law on immigration policies and practices in the United States, regulating the admissibility of non-citizens into the country. This law exposes minors to improper treatment in many

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

The bishops visit a holding cell in the Border Patrol Station in Nogales, AZ.

a holding cell in the Border Patrol Station in Nogales, AZ. circumstances. For example, child asylum

circumstances. For example, child asylum applicants are treated in the same way as adult applicants and unaccompanied alien children in federal custody are required to process their asylum application before an immigration judge in

removal proceedings. This process, known as “defensive asylum”, places the child in an adversarial setting in which he or she is interrogated by federal trial attorneys on the merits of an asylum claim. In addition, many children with asylum claims based on persecution, torture and mistreatment are detained in federal custody pending a final decision on their application.

The delegation spoke with several legal aid providers who highlighted problems with US immigration policies and expressed disapproval of federal policies and practices dealing with children. It has become difficult to represent children and recruit pro-bono counsel for children because the laws are too restrictive in administering a child’s case. The law provides limited relief for children in federal custody and makes the process so difficult that many children ultimately choose removal from the United States.

I hope that a balanced management of migratory flows and of human mobility in general will soon be achieved so as to benefit the entire human family, starting with practical measures that encourage legal emigration and the reunion of families, and paying special attention to women and minors.

— Pope Benedict XVI, 2007 World Day of Migrants and Refugees Message

The law should accommodate the special circumstances of unaccompanied alien children and provide a safe and relaxed venue for children to present an asylum claim or request an immigration benefit.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Recommendations:

u

US federal immigration agencies should implement policies and practices that accommodate the special circumstances and vulnerability of unaccompanied alien children. Such policies should provide special treatment to child asylum seekers and appropriate care pending the adjudication of a child’s asylum claim. Child asylum applicants in removal proceedings should be allowed to pursue an asylum claim before the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) affirmative process.

u

The Immigration and Nationality Act and correlated regulations should be amended to address the immediate and long-term needs of migrant children. Children in detention and in the immigration process should be treated in a different manner than adults and the laws should recognize their vulnerabilities.

u

Immigration law should incorporate best interest standards for children and provide appropriate immigration relief options to protect vulnerable children.

u

US federal law-enforcement agencies should minimize or prohibit the detention of unaccompanied alien children who demonstrate a fear of return, mental, emotional, or physical trauma, or victimization.

u

We encourage administrative and legislative advocacy for the application of “best interest” principles in the care, benefits, and release of unaccompanied alien children in federal detention. Legislation should promote fair and humane family- based immigration policies, providing non-citizens with a structured path to lawful status in the United States.

Observation 7: We Need Laws That Protect and Offer Hope to Migrants

The desire of immigrants to be reunited with family members in the United States is a strong factor influencing their migration. Although many migrant families never live permanently in the United States, restrictive immigration policies have caused many immigrants who would otherwise go back and forth between countries, to stay in this country and bring their family members to join them. The existing US immigration system limits the annual number of visas available to non-citizens and restricts their admissibility to such an extent that some family members are required to wait over 20 years before they can be reunited with loved ones in this country. This immigration structure does not work and is in need of reform.

The bishops spoke with social welfare agencies and legal service providers who expressed concern about how immigration and social welfare laws limit the availability of services to non-citizens and their family members. Undocumented migrants are already among the most vulnerable in any community and these laws increase their vulnerabilities. One migrant asked the bishops why Americans willingly employee migrant workers, but refuse

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

The bishops and Anastasia Brown participate in a round table discussion on child trafficking with members of the Houston Area Trafficking Coalition and ICMC staff who work with unaccompanied migrant children.

with members of the Houston Area Trafficking Coalition and ICMC staff who work with unaccompanied migrant

to provide them with lawful status or labor protections. These migrants understand that American workers and the foreign workers are treated differently, but they are left with few, if any options, to regularize their status.

Recommendations:

u

National, state and local advocacy groups should continue to promote equitable immigration laws and policies that honor the principle of family unity. The laws should better reflect the percentage of intending immigrants.

u

Legislative and administrative policies should support a temporary worker strategy that protects American workers and facilitates the need of American businesses to pursue labor in foreign markets.

Bishops present award to Catholic Charities in Houston for their outstanding service to unaccompanied migrant children. A press conference was held in conjunction with this presentation.

outstanding service to unaccompanied migrant children. A press conference was held in conjunction with this presentation.

0

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Conclusion

Conclusion T he delegation is impressed with the commitment of the Catholic and faith-based community in

T he delegation is impressed with the commitment of the Catholic and faith-based

community in caring for undocumented migrants, young and old, in the United

States. The United States is a nation of immigrants though many Americans dis-

count our rich immigrant tradition by seeking immigration laws that restrict and remove non-citizens from this country. There are an estimated 12 million undocumented persons living in the United States. These men, women and children do not have the rights and liberties that are expected in American society.

The delegation appreciates the vital role of federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents in the administration and enforcement of the immigration laws of this country. The individuals and groups who met with the bishops generally demonstrated a concern for the safety and well-being of migrant children. Limited resources and insufficient training create barriers for these individuals and agencies; however, these can be overcome.

We continue to support the work that provides refuge and care to these migrants and we pledge to pursue legislation that will better attend to the needs of these vulnerable populations. Our continued prayers are for the migrants and their families in the difficult process of migration.

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Individuals And Organizations Visited

Bonna Kol and Joe Rubio present a token of appreciation to the bishops.

Joe Rubio present a token of appreciation to the bishops. Government Officials:  John Fitzpatrick, Patrol

Government Officials:

John Fitzpatrick, Patrol Agent-in-Charge US Customs and Border Protection Nogales, AZ

Donald J. DeGabrielle Jr., United States Attorney Southern District Houston, TX

Edward F. Gallagher, III, Assistant US Attorney and Deputy Chief Criminal Division Houston, TX

Ruben R. Perez, Assistant US Attorney & Chief Civil Rights Division Houston, TX

Scott Hatfield, Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge US Immigration & Customs Enforcement Houston, TX.

Honorable Robert Hough, Immigration Judge Executive Office for Immigration Review El Paso, TX

Luis Garcia, Director, Field Operations US Customs and Border Patrol El Paso, TX

The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico Border

Non-Governmental Organizations (Legal Services):

Wafa Abdin, Supervising Attorney Catholic Charities, St. Francis Cabrini Center for Immigration Legal Assistance Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Sister Liliane Alam, FMM, Executive Director Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center El Paso, TX

Iliana Holguin, Executive Director Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services (DMRS) Diocese of El Paso

M. Aryah Somers, Esq., Children’s Staff Attorney Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project Phoenix, AZ

Non-Governmental Organizations (Social Services):

Pablo Bobbio, Ph.D, Counseling Services Volunteer Catholic Charities, St. Michael’s Home for Children Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Erica Dahl-Bredine, Mexico Country Manager Catholic Relief Services Tucson, AZ

Ron Dankowski, Executive Director Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona Diocese of Tucson

Debra Fergus, Case Management Supervisor Catholic Charities, Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program Phoenix, AZ

Rene Franco, Program Coordinator Immigration & Citizenship Program Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona Diocese of Tucson

Leticia Harmon, Program Director Catholic Charities St. Michael’s Home for Children Unaccompanied Alien Children Program Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Peg Harmon, CEO Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona Tucson, AZ

Deacon Joe Rubio, Vice President for Commmunity Relations & Development Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Tricia Hoyt, Director Office of Peace & Justice Diocese of Phoenix

Tim Jefferson, Case Manager and Outreach Coordinator Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking Phoenix, AZ

Beth Ann Johnson, Volunteer Director Casa San Juan Diocesan Migrant Service Center Houston, TX

Bonna Kol, President/CEO Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Ferdinand Lossavi Lossou, Refugee Resettlement Program Director Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona Tucson, AZ

Father Prisciliano Peraza, Pastor Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado Altar, MX

Joanne Welter, Director Catholic Social Mission Diocese of Tucson

Mr. Mark & Mrs. Louise Zwick, Executive Directors Casa Juan Diego Houston, Texas

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24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Trafficking on the US/Mexico
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services 3211 4th Street, NE Washington,

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services 3211 4th Street, NE Washington, DC 20017 www.usccb.org/mrs