An updated July 15 Reuters news item reports that on Monday (July 14) the US deported a group of Honduran women and children, including an 18 month old baby, to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the highest murder rate in the world. See U.S. Deports Honduran Children In First Flight Since Obama's Pledge.

One of the women deported said that after being caught at the border, U.S. officials treated them like "animals", holding them in rooms with as many as 50 people where some mothers had to sleep standing up holding children.
The Reuters report also said:

"So chaotic are the circumstances of the exodus that some of the children are not even correctly reunited with their parents, said Valdette Willeman, Director of the Center for Attention for Returned Migrants in Honduras.

'Many of the mothers are sometimes not even the real mothers of the children', she said."


This report raises a few interesting legal questions:

1) Were the arriving children at the US border properly screened to see which ones met the definition of unaccompanied children under the TVPRA (Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act) which anti-immigrant advocates would like to amend or repeal, but which is still the law of the land?

2) Were those children who did meet the above definition turned over to HHS for shelter under humane conditions as required by that law?

3) Were the above unaccompanied children (if any) afforded individual immigration court hearings as also required by the TVPRA before being deported?

4) If any children or their parents (assuming that they were indeed the children's real parents) signed withdrawals of applications for admission, did they do so in full knowledge of the significance of the meaning of what they were doing and based on knowledge of their rights under the asylum for other laws granting relief from deportation?

Under the TVPRA, even unaccompanied children from Mexico, who are not given the protection of a deportation hearing before a judge, cannot be forced to signed a withdrawal without understanding what it means. (This denial of the right to an immigration court hearing also applies to unaccompanied children arriving at the Canadian border - Congress was no doubt also concerned about preventing a possible influx of blonde, blue-eyed children from Scandinavia or other places arriving from our northern neighbor when the TVPRA was enacted in 2008).

5) Were the deported children (or adults) afforded due process of law, including the right to counsel, before being sent home, or were were they rushed out of the US without any legal protections for purely political reasons?

These questions are of concern not only to children arriving at the US border. They are of concern to everyone who deals with immigration law issues - whether they be unnecessary and incomprehensible RFE's, or unjustified denials, in USCIS employment-based petitions; skewed interpretations of US Labor Department regulations in BALCA decisions, unreasonable delays or errors in processing or deciding family-based cases, or egregious abuses of fundamental civil and due process rights such as a "fraud" determination made in an I-140 case by an evidently unsupervised USCIS examiner without prior notice, opportunity to respond, or any factual basis whatsoever, which I have described in previous posts and will be updating in a forthcoming one.

All of us who are involved with any aspect of immigrant rights should be concerned about the fate of the thousands of Central American children arriving at the US border hoping to escape violence and terror in their home countries.

Up to now, it is the anti-immigrant side that has been accusing Barack Obama of running an "imperial presidency" without regard for the law. However, if it turns out that this administration is now starting to send Central American children home without regard for the TVPRA and the underlying Constitutional principles which that law is intended to enforce, than it may be the pro-immigrant side that needs to worry about the specter of a lawless presidency, bound only by the rule of expediency.