WASHINGTON - U.S. agencies are not complying with a 2008 law intended to protect unaccompanied children crossing the border from Mexico, a new report said.
"Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors" was produced by Appleseed, a non-partisan organization based in Washington, and Appleseed Mexico. It examines the treatment of children detained in the United States and once they are returned to Mexico.
Appleseed said about 15,000 unaccompanied children cross the border each year. Congress adopted legislation in 2008 intended to ensure children are not returned to abusive situations or recruited by human trafficking groups.
The report recommended that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which already handles asylum applications, be given the responsibility of screening unaccompanied children. Customs and Border Protection agents, who now do the screening, do not have adequate training or experience, the report said.
Mexican officials emphasize family reunification and do not do a good job of ensuring children are being returned to a safe home, the group said.
"U.S. and Mexican officials also do not coordinate well to identify and address the problems posed by minors who attempt to cross the border repeatedly, face serious problems, or are being used to smuggle other persons or drugs across the border," the report concluded.