Washington, DC — Vice President Kamala Harris and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have a scheduled meeting Friday in which they plan to discuss the root causes of migration. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which provides legal assistance to unaccompanied children seeking protection, urges both leaders to collaborate to prioritize the safety of migrant children in Mexico.
“The protection of child migrants on the move must be at the forefront of discussions between the United States and Mexico,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “We are glad to see the Biden Administration focus on drivers of migration and welcome both countries’ commitment to addressing the reasons that children are forced to flee. As these efforts get underway, children continue to need safe haven when facing immediate danger.”
In Mexico, unaccompanied children face barriers to asylum, such as the limited capacity of Mexico’s asylum system and lack of access to child-friendly information on how to seek asylum. With increased immigration enforcement at Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, unaccompanied children are more likely to seek alternative routes to try to evade authorities, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking, kidnappings, extortion, and sexual and physical assault.
A majority of unaccompanied children who encounter Mexican authorities will be deported without consideration of their best interests, counter to Mexican law. Mexico continues to hold unaccompanied children in detention-like settings.
The United States should support Mexico’s efforts to implement recently enacted child welfare laws that require Mexican government authorities to address the best interests of migrant children, including housing them in child appropriate shelters or alternative care, rather than immigration detention.
“Children fleeing violence in their home countries too often suffer additional trauma on their journey to safety,” said Young. “Mexico must commit to implementing its recent legal reforms, coordinating across all agencies involved with unaccompanied children, and collaborating with civil society organizations, to ensure meaningful protection. At the same time, the United States should work to strengthen the capacity of Mexico’s child protection authorities responsible for children on the move, as well as Mexico’s ability to provide appropriate shelter for children and asylum for those seeking protection within its borders. Only then will both countries live up to their obligations to keep children safe.”
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