BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — A 16-year-old Honduran girl has been deported back to her Central American country despite having been having sexually abused by her father, the teen’s lawyer said.
The girl had lived with her mother in a tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, for several months waiting for asylum before she crossed into Brownsville, Texas, as an unaccompanied minor.
Stephen Blake, a lawyer from Palo Alto, Calif., told Border Report on Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials deported the girl Friday on a flight from South Texas after a federal district court in Washington, D.C., refused to issue a temporary restraining order to stop her deportation.
Blake, whose firm took on the case pro bono, said he filed a motion requesting the girl receive a new immigration case under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which affords unaccompanied minors certain legal protections.
But federal officials claimed that she was subject to removal orders under her original asylum case, which had returned the girl and her mother to Mexico to await their immigration hearings under the Migrant Protection Protocols program.
After months of waiting in the outdoor camp in Matamoros, an immigration judge on Jan. 10 issued a removal order against the girl and her mother. But on Jan. 24, court documents say the girl walked over the Gateway International Bridge alone and asked U.S. border officials to grant her asylum as an unaccompanied minor.
Blake said that as an unaccompanied minor — called by federal officials as Unaccompanied Alien Children or UACs — the girl should no longer have been subject to the MPP removal order because according to DHS, asylum-seekers with disabilities and unaccompanied minors are exempt from MPP.
What makes this case unique is that unaccompanied minors are typically taken into the care of U.S. Health and Human Services and offered shelter in the United States with other children until their asylum cases play out in U.S. court. However, Blake said, this girl was sent to a shelter in McAllen, Texas, where she waited for just three and a half weeks and then she was put on a deportation flight without any other family and sent back to Honduras.
The girl’s name has not been released because she is a minor, and is only referred to by her initials AMPV in court documents. Her father currently is in prison on charges of sexually assaulting the girl, and Blake says the girl’s uncle, who lives in Honduras, has openly criticized the child.
“She has suffered physical and sexual assault … has endured harassment, extreme conditions, and severe emotional trauma in her efforts to seek refuge in the United States. … And (she) is now gravely at risk of being deported to a country where she has no parent or legal guardian to protect her and faces a serious threat of additional harm or violence,” the lawsuit filed by Blake reads.
Blake said he has spoken with other immigration lawyers throughout the country and they have told him that more and more of their children immigration clients have been deported alone since this COVID-19 pandemic began.
“It seems like in the last couple of weeks they’ve taken a position across the board that they have the ability to execute the MPP removal orders and send UAC minors back to their countries without their parents,” Blake said via phone. “There has been a pivot to how the government is treating unaccompanied minors and they are executing their prior removal orders.”
“This is devastating. AMPV fled sexual violence and death threats for reporting her abuser and sought protection at our border. Once DHS learned that she had cases pending in both immigration and federal court, they rushed to put her on a plane back to the very people who threatened her life,” said Olivia Peña, deputy program director at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, which was the government-appointed Child Advocate for AMPV. Peña supervised the case.
“ICE deported this teenager knowing she had an appeal pending and that her mother remained in Mexico, unable to help her daughter,” Jennifer Nagda, policy director at the Young Center, said in a statement. “They did not provide anyone a chance to help facilitate AMPV’s safe repatriation, which is required by federal law. We don’t know whether ICE allowed AMPV to speak to her frantic mother before waking her in the middle of the night to send her back to Honduras, alone.”
Blake said he has not spoken to the girl since she was deported and he believes she is being held under a 14-day quarantine in Honduras, which requires anyone returning from the United States to isolate for two weeks.
In a statement to Border Report, ICE said, “The individual in the court case known as AMPV was lawfully removed after fully exercising due process rights through the courts. This individual was removed from a location within the Rio Grande Valley.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.
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