Unaccompanied Children “Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

June 24, 2020

Today, a federal court ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols temporarily prevented the deportation of a 16-year-old boy from Honduras who fled violence. The decision underscores that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) likely overstepped its authority by ordering the immediate deportation of children who arrive at the U.S. border alone in search of safety. Bethany commends Judge Nichols for upholding U.S. law, prioritizing family reunification, and recognizing the extreme danger children face if they are swiftly deported to the countries they fled.

Bethany released the following statement in response to today’s court ruling:

Today’s ruling is important, overdue, and incomplete. Unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border are caught between a rock and a hard place, forced to play an unwinnable game when it comes to making the choice to escape violence, only to be deported right back into it.

Children who escape their home countries are often in extreme danger. Turning them away flies in the face of what public health officials have said – children fleeing for their lives are at the same risk of contracting and transmitting the virus as anyone else. Deporting children does nothing to promote the eradication of COVID-19, but rather puts children in more danger and keeps families apart.

We’re grateful for this decision, but it’s overdue. Throughout the pandemic we have been deeply concerned for the wellbeing of children and families at our border, and we mourn with the families that have been split or kept apart. Thousands of children have been sent back to dangerous situations without due process or trafficking screenings since March.

This decision is a positive step, but the federal court has yet to extend the protections to all children seeking asylum because of the trafficking, violence, or gang extortion they faced. They cannot wait for a vaccine to be protected.

U.S. border officials should carry out health screenings, testing, quarantines, and other measure, help stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of both the American people and the children seeking safety. Organizations that care for unaccompanied children, like Bethany, are prepared to meet the mental and physical health needs of these vulnerable kids and keep them – and the American people – safe amid the pandemic.

About Bethany Bethany is a global nonprofit that supports children and families with world-class social services, all designed to help families thrive. Over 75 years ago, we began our work by serving a single child. Today, we work in more than 30 states and in countries around worldwide, impacting hundreds-of-thousands of people every year.