More than three-quarters of the “child” migrants who recently crossed the border into government custody are teenagers who claim ages of 15 to 17, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The data contradicts the narrative by President Joe Biden’s deputies — and by much of the media — who suggest the young migrants are children traveling alone to seek safety in the United States.
“We are not apprehending a 9-year-old child, who has come alone, who has traversed Mexico … whose loving parents sent that child alone,” insisted Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “We’re not expelling that 9-year-old child to Mexico when that child’s country of origin was Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador,” Mayorkas said on March 1.
Only 13 percent of the 5,126 minor migrants in HHS custody on January 31 were younger than 12, according to the HHS data. Seventy-one percent were males.
The non-adult migrants are legally defined as “Unaccompanied Alien Children” (UACs) even though they are accompanied to the border by coyotes, who are working under contracts with their parents or labor brokers.
Many of the migrant teenagers — as well as some young men who understate their age — are heading north to find work, often goaded by the economic success of older men in their home villages, migration experts said.
“It’s definitely jobs,” said Rob Law, the director of regulatory affairs and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies.
“There’s no doubt about it that the overwhelming number of aliens are economic migrants,” Law said, who worked as policy director in former-President Donald Trump’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. “They pose as humanitarian cases … [but] their true intention is simply to come here and take American jobs.”
On January 30, the Los Angeles Times reported the deaths of 13 Guatemalan teenagers killed by gunmen as they approached the cartel-controlled U.S.-Mexican border. The victims included 15-year-old Robelson Isidro:
He earned just $3 a day toiling in the coffee fields around Comitancillo, a largely indigenous town in Guatemala’s western highlands. With a few years of American wages, he hoped to buy the family a house.
The [Guatemalan] community has a long history of sending migrants to the United States, and [Isidro] had uncles who lived there. They had indoor kitchens. They didn’t have to cook outside under a tarp.
“He was ashamed,” his mother said in a phone interview. She said he told her: “I’m going to fight to make my dreams come true. I have to get my siblings ahead in life. I’m going to get them out of poverty.”
A 2017 International Organization for Migration study showed economic reasons fueled 91 percent of Guatemalan migration to the United States. Less than one percent migrated because of concerns about crime.
“Honestly, I think almost everyone in the system knows that most of the [migrant] teens are coming to work and send money back home,” Maria Woltjen, executive director and founder of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, told a reporter for ProPublica. “They want to help their parents,” she told ProPublica for a November 2020 article, reporting:
Around Urbana-Champaign, the home of the University of Illinois, school district officials say children and adolescents lay shingles, wash dishes and paint off-campus university apartments. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, an indigenous Guatemalan labor leader has heard complaints from adult workers in the fish-packing industry who say they’re losing their jobs to 14-year-olds. In Ohio, teenagers work in dangerous chicken plants.
Some began to work when they were just 13 or 14, packing the candy you find by the supermarket register, cutting the slabs of raw meat that end up in your freezer and baking, in industrial ovens, the pastries you eat with your coffee. Garcia, who is 18 now, was 15 when he got his first job at an automotive parts factory.
On March 4, Biden spoke with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Falla about developing a “humane and effective migration plan.”
More than 117,000 young migrants are expected to come to the US this year:
In 2016, GOP Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) worked with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to investigate the trafficking of teenagers into America’s labor force.
The subsequent bipartisan report, “Protecting Unaccompanied Alien Children from Trafficking and Other Abuses: The Role of the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” spotlighted one example of coyotes smuggling migrant children north in exchange for slave-like indentured labor in American workplaces:
In a number of cases, however, parents who consented to the placement of their children with certain [unrelated] sponsors were also complicit in the child’s smuggling. In the Marion cases, for example, several victims’ family members attested to the asserted relationship, but there was a reason: The human traffickers held the deeds to some of the families’ homes as collateral for the child’s journey to the United States. The sooner the child was released from HHS custody, the sooner they could begin working to repay the debt. Other cases revealed that parents have deceived HHS by claiming that a relationship existed between the sponsor and the UAC when it did not.
Once HHS released the minor victims to the defendants, they were forced to work at egg farms in Marion and other locations for six or seven days a week, twelve hours per day. The work was physically demanding and, according to the indictment, included tasks such as de-beaking chickens and cleaning chicken coops. The minor victims were forced to live in “substandard” trailers owned by the traffickers. The traffickers withheld the victims’ paychecks and gave them very little money for food and necessities. The traffickers would threaten the victims and their family members with physical harm, and even death, if they did not work or surrender their entire paychecks. The minor victims were not given an accounting of their debt and often had their debt increased beyond what was initially agreed upon. One of the traffickers assaulted a victim for refusing to turn over his paycheck. The traffickers punished another minor victim when he complained about working at the egg farm by moving him to a different trailer “that was unsanitary and unsafe, with no bed, no heat, no hot water, no working toilets, and vermin.” The traffickers then called the minor victim’s father and threatened to shoot the father in the head if the minor victim did not work. The traffickers used physical violence against the minor victims to keep them in line and to ensure they continued to do as they were told. The indictment alleges that the defendants “used a combination of threats, humiliation, deprivation, financial coercion, debt manipulation, and monitoring to create a climate of fear and helplessness that would compel [the victims’] compliance.”
Portman’s report added that “investigators were told by an unidentified victim of the traffickers that approximately 20 other Guatemalan minors were being forced to work at eggs farms to pay off their smuggling debt.”
On March 4, as thousands of migrant youth crossed the border at the invitation of President Joe Biden, Portman issued an email statement:
Each day brings new reports of a surge of arrivals at the U.S. southern border, which we know will increase the risk of trafficking in persons, especially for unaccompanied children arriving in greater numbers.
Over the course of the three bipartisan reports and hearings I led as the Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations I found, across two different administrations, concerning failures to ensure the safety of—or even keep track of—these vulnerable children once they were handed off to sponsors, as well as a fundamental refusal by agencies to accept that they were responsible for their welfare.
… I urge the Biden Administration to ensure that all critical procedures are followed to ensure the safety of these children like fingerprinting of the sponsors, criminal background checks, and home visits because the U.S. federal government cannot allow these children to fall victim to human trafficking, abuse, or other harm. The agencies of jurisdiction must meet their responsibilities under the law.
Most major media outlets simply ignore the reality of teenage migrant workers. NBC’s Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley, for example, wrote on March 4:
NBC News reported that more than 625 children have been held in Border Patrol custody over the 72 hour legal limit and the administration projects 117,000 unaccompanied children could cross the border this year, far surpassing previous records.
“We are looking at a number of different types of shelters that are required in the best interest of the children and to address the public health imperative of the American people,” Mayorkas said. “We understand the sigificance of the number of children. It speaks to the fact that there is quite frankly pent-up desperation from three countries that have suffered so much violence, so much poverty and other adverse conditions.”
In a separate article, Soboroff and Ainsley skated over the issue, writing on March 3, “The data also showed that 95 of the 625 who had been waiting more than 72 hours for transfer to custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, were under 13 years old.”
The data NBC cited suggests 85 percent of the 625 migrant minors were older than 14.
The Washington Post uses “minors” to conflate children and teenagers. Sometimes Axios recognizes the high number of teenagers.
“Illegal aliens are highly rational thinkers,” said Law. “When you have open-borders policies [with] a wink and a nod [from DHS officials], you know the United States under the Biden administration is not going to enforce the law against you, rationally, you should come, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
The migrants’ rational calculations, he added, are “deeply harmful to Americans, who are the victims of reckless and lawless policies in the Biden administration.”: