Central American refugees line up in Matamoros to wait for a chance to plead for asylum as an aid volunteer checks on their safety.
Immigrants' rights groups, including San Antonio-based RAICES, have sued the Trump administration for denying protections it's required under law to give to unaccompanied migrant children.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, argues that the White House's hard-line "wait in Mexico" policy has forced some 69,000 asylum seekers, many of them children, to face danger and squalor south of the border as they wait for the feds to hear their cases.
Children who cross the border alone in hopes that they will be safer in U.S. custody face a second round of abuse since federal authorities have been ignoring the protections granted to unaccompanied minors under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the groups further argue.
"The heart of the lawsuit is simple: Unaccompanied migrant children are entitled by statute and by the Constitution to due process, an opportunity to seek asylum, and compassion from this country," said Esther Sung, senior counsel with the Justice Action Center, another of the groups that brought the case. "The Trump administration has refused to afford these protections to children who have been forced to pass through [its wait in Mexico policy]."
Sung called on the incoming Biden administration end the Trump-era policy, and "build an asylum system worthy of this country’s reputation as a beacon of hope and opportunity."
Children stuck in migrant camps in Mexico as they await hearings regularly face violence, rape and abduction, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch
. Civil rights groups have filed numerous suits against the federal government seeking to end the program.
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