Center for Public Policy Priorities.

In A Child Alone and Without Papers, CPPP investigated what happens to the undocumented, unaccompanied children removed annually from the United States and repatriated to their home countries. According to the study, the federal government often compromises children's rights, safety, and well-being, contrary to international law and U.S. child welfare standards.

The study finds that inadequate policies lead to maltreatment of children in official custody. For instance, in the U.S. no uniform process deals with undocumented, unaccompanied children in custody, including whether they can access an attorney, the length of detainment, and treatment while in custody.

Some of the other findings from the study:
  • Many children faced complicated immigration proceedings without legal representation. 50 to 70 per cent of detained unaccompanied minors went before an immigration judge without a lawyer.
  • Children flown to non-bordering countries were shackled during the flight.
  • Children taken by vehicle to Mexico were transported in kennel-like compartments.
  • Insufficient systems miss opportunities to identify children caught in trafficking.
  • The system makes children responsible for triggering protective services, an impossible burden for most given a child's limited development and inexperience with U.S. systems and culture.
  • Studies in Mexico and Honduras revealed a lack of structures to prevent maltreatment or to ensure application of child welfare standards, allowing authorities to return children to dangerous situations, including into the hands of traffickers or onto the street.
  • Children interviewed for the study reported going without water at U.S. Border Patrol stations, being handcuffed, having their requests for medical attention ignored. At least one reported getting struck and knocked down by an agent.