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October, 2006

Painting by a child migrant depicting his journey from Central

America to the United States
A Report From
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Migration & Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS)
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
The Lost Dream:
Unaccompanied Migrant Children
and Victims of Human Traffcking
on the US/Mexico Border
In this context it is necessary to
mention traffcking in human beings
especially women which fourishes
where opportunities to improve their
standard of living or even to survive are
limited. It becomes easy for the traffcker
to offer his own services to the victims,
who often do not even vaguely suspect
what awaits them. In some cases there
are women and girls who are destined
to be exploited almost like slaves in their
work, and not infrequently in the sex
industry, too.
Pope Benedict XVI, 2006 World Day
of Migrants and Refugees Message
All photos courtesy of the Catholic Legal
Immigration Network, Inc. All rights reserved.
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n October 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Commit-
tee on Migration directed a fact-fnding delegation in the Southwest border region of
the United States and Northern Mexico to examine the situation and treatment of unac-
companied alien children and victims of human traffcking.
Participating in the delegation were Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes, Bishop of San
Bernardino, California and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration; Most
Reverend Jaime Soto, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, California; Most Reverend Armando
Ochoa, Bishop of El Paso, Texas; and Most Reverend John B. McCormack, Bishop of
Manchester, New Hampshire. The bishops were accompanied by staff from the Offce of
Migration & Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/MRS),
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
The delegation had the opportunity to speak directly with migrants in Mexico and the
U.S. and to learn frst hand of their concerns. The delegation members also met with a
broad cross-section of agencies and individuals involved with or knowledgeable about
these populations. Among those visited were Church offcials, federal immigration and law
enforcement agencies, community-based organizations, legal service providers, and other
individuals and groups with important perspectives on comprehensive immigration issues.
San Xavier
Mission near
Tucson, AZ.
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While the delegation
encountered many
individuals whose lives had
been shattered, families who
had been separated, and
children who had undergone
terrible hardships, they were
moved by the deep faith of
many of these migrants and
their continued struggle
to achieve a better life
for themselves and their
families. There was misery
and frustration, but there
was also hope.
The treatment of foreign-
born individuals in the
United States has long been
a concern of the Catholic
community and the USCCB. Scripture reminds us that we should treat the stranger among
us humanely. Every day, thousands of migrants from diverse social, economic and religious
backgrounds live and work in the United States, provide necessary labor and services
that allow our society to prosper, and enrich our communities. Many of these individuals
migrate to this country, abandoning their native homes in search of better opportunities
for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the migration experience to the United
States can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Our current US immigration policies
too often mistreat the most vulnerable migrants, disregard domestic labor needs and fail to
address legitimate national security issues.
Regrettably, not all immigrants in the United States have willingly migrated to this
country or voluntarily perform labor and services here. A considerable number of men,
women and children are criminally traffcked into the United States to perform forced
labor, including sexual exploitation. Many traffcking victims are held captive and exposed
to horrifc situations involving extensive physical and emotional abuse. The clandestine
nature of human traffcking makes it diffcult to measure the extent of this problem in the
United States. However, reliable estimates suggest that thousands of foreign-born victims,
including minor children, are traffcked into the country each year.
Another migrant population that is particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and
exploitation is unaccompanied alien children (UAC). These children fnd themselves
physically present in the United States or endeavoring to enter the country without the
supervision and protection of a parent or guardian. The majority of these children endure
Young migrants
at a boarding
house in Altar,
MX. The
learned of their
motives and
experiences as
they travel to
and from the
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traumatic migratory experiences that can include physical assault, sexual and emotional
abuse, and even death. They need protection, as well as compassionate and humane
treatment by governmental and non-governmental agencies. The situation and needs of
survivors of human traffcking and UACs are regularly disregarded in the current U.S.
immigration system. Vulnerable men, women and children are at the center of the U.S.
immigration debate. It is important that migrants be treated equitably and with respect.
The USCCB delegation hopes that the observations and recommendations in this report
will lead to a better response towards and treatment of foreign born migrants in the
United States, assistance to migrants on their journey to reach the US, and programs to
address the core reasons for migration. The bishops and their staff extend their gratitude
and support to those individuals and organizations providing very important care and
assistance to all migrants, especially those whose vulnerabilities expose them to great harm.
CBP United States Customs & Border Protection
CCAMYN Centro Comunitario de Atencin al Migrante y Necesitado
CLINIC Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
CRS Catholic Relief Services
DHS United States Department of Homeland Security
DHHS United States Department of Health & Human Services
DOJ United States Department of Justice
EOIR Executive Offce for Immigration Review
ICE United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement
ICMC International Catholic Migration Commission
INA Immigration & Nationality Act
INS United States Immigration & Naturalization Service
LPR Lawful Permanent Resident Alien
Migration & Refugee Services,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
NGO Non-Governmental Organization
Offce of Refugee Resettlement,
United States Department of Health & Human Services
SIJ Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
TPS Temporary Protected Status
TVPA Traffcking Victims Protection Act of 2000
UAC Unaccompanied Alien Children
USCIS United States Citizenship & Immigration Services
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Delegation Observations & Recommendations
Migration The Journey Begins
Observation 1: Why We Migrate Leaving Family & Home
The bishops began their trip in the City of Altar in Northern Mexico, visiting the Centro
Comunitario de Atencin al Migrante y Necesitado (CCAMYN) where they shared a meal
with adult migrants who were starting their journey to the United States or returning after
failing to enter. The CCAMYN is a Catholic-run migrant center that provides temporary
housing, food, medical services and educational materials and training on the hazards of
undocumented migration through the border region between the Southern United States
and Northern Mexico. This not-for-proft organization began its operations in 2001 to
care for the large number of migrants in the region who face severe economic, social and
environmental hardships. Several volunteer workers described how at frst their work
involved providing meals and clothing to hundreds of migrants in the streets. The citys
parks and public spaces were overcrowded with migrants, many sleeping on benches and
nearly everyone uncertain about what the next day would bring. The migrants have mostly
been temporary visitors, using the City of Altar as a staging ground for their fnal journey
into the United States. Migrants spend their time in Altar resting, contracting with
smugglers or seeking guidance on how to make their entry.
The delegation
gathers near
Tucson, AZ
at the San
Xavier Mission.
Pictured are
bishops and
MRS and
diocesan staff
from Phoenix
and Tucson
who work on
issues of child
and provide
services to
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The migrants themselves described the diffculties and the hazards involved in their journey,
many speaking of criminal assaults and terrible environmental conditions, while others
described multiple failed attempts at entering the United States and the deaths of relatives
or fellow travelers. One migrant described how his familys failed migration from Southern
Mexico has nearly destroyed his marriage and remains a major rift between him and his spouse.
These migrants also spoke of their familys needs and their own yearning to provide for them.
One migrant explained that he endures these unbearable conditions so that his children can live
and study in their native home and not be forced to migrate to the United States. These men
agreed that no one should be forced to migrate from their homes to feed their families and that
the journey, although diffcult, is at present the only way their families will be fed.
The delegation then visited migrants staying in boarding
houses, where the majority of migrants stay in cramped
and unhealthy conditions either en route to the US or after
deportation. Several men, women and children discussed
personal and social diffculties faced in their countries of
origin that led to their migration. Many described the
diffculty of seeking employment or an education in their
respective countries.
Francisco Garcia, CCAMYN Director, described the
migration phenomena in the city of Altar, Mexico and the
surrounding border region as being both infuenced by and
infuencing economic activity. According to his estimates,
the mass migrations that are experienced today can be
attributed to the North American Free-Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) of 1994. Although the agreement promised free
trade and easier fows of capital and labor among its signatory nations, the results for the
Mexican people have been a loss of work and resources. In addition, the increased foreign
exploitation of Mexican resources caused a massive social unrest in Southern Mexico. As
a result, workers in Southern Mexico and Central America compete for few employment
opportunities and struggle to protect their families from social and economic instability.
Additionally, as the United States concentrated enforcement activities along traditional
crossing routes, the migration pattern shifted to remote cities like Altar, Mexico and more
dangerous routes. During the summer months, desert temperatures can rise well above 100
in this region, greatly increasing the likelihood of exposure deaths for migrants crossing
through this desert region. The economic impact on cities like Altar, once primarily an
agricultural community, has been signifcant. Altar now caters primarily to migrant services.
Unfortunately, this increased economic activity has led to an increased presence of smugglers
that is adversely affecting the community and its residents. Many community leaders fear that
as more school-aged children seek employment in the migration economy rather than pursue
an education, the long-term impact will be the loss of a generation of workers and leaders.
Every migrant that receives
our care has a family, children
and a home. They have chosen
to leave that home out of
necessity. Their options are
limited and they go to the
United States to work and to
provide for hungry mouths at
Francisco Garcia, CCAMYN Director
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The migrant children in Altar described horrifc experiences, including sexual and physical
assaults, being abandoned by family members and traveling companions and unable to
fnd food and shelter throughout their travels. Girls as young as 12 years of age described
being drugged, groped and raped by law enforcement offcials and other migrants. Some
children were forced to resort to prostitution because it was the only way to fnance their
housing, food, and journey.
A 72 year-old migrant described multiple entries into the United States dating back to the
1960s to perform seasonal labor in Texas, Georgia, Florida and other areas in the Southern
United States. He was confdent this would be his fnal journey. He had successfully
moved his family to the United States and found it extremely diffcult to maintain
circular movement between the two countries. His physical appearance displayed intense
exhaustion, similarly shared by the other migrant workers; however, he was optimistic
about his opportunities in the United States. His only regret was having failed to apply
for legalization in the United States when this was available to him. He described being
confused and fearful of asking the US government for lawful status.
Other migrants described the economic diffculties experienced in their country of origin
which gave rise to their migration. One migrant explained how the devaluation of coffee
in Honduras caused by the governments deregulation of prices, led to his unemployment
and inability to fnd employment. The only way he could provide for his wife and fve
children was for him to leave Honduras and seek employment in the United States. This is a
common occurrence in Central and South American societies where the depletion of natural
Mass and bless
the migrants
on their
journey in
Altar, MX.
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resources causes high unemployment and leads to mass migration in search of work, often to
destinations in the United States.
Observation 2: We Are Children, Treat Us As Children
Unaccompanied alien children are typically obliged to leave their homes in search of
work, security or reunifcation with family members already in the United States. Many
unaccompanied alien children are victims of poverty, domestic violence, abusive child
labor practices, human traffcking, rape, forced prostitution, or armed confict in their
home countries. They travel long distances to reach the United States in the hope that
they can fnd personal safety and a better life for themselves. In other instances, children
are unaccompanied because they have been separated from their families, leaving them
to complete a very diffcult journey alone. Regardless of their reasons for migrating,
unaccompanied alien children are highly vulnerable and need specialized support and
The delegation visited shelter care and foster home facilities that are used to house
unaccompanied alien children in Houston and El Paso, Texas. These facilities closely
We encourage the government of the United States to develop and promote a bi-
national commission, comprised of governmental agencies and non-governmental
organizations with experience and knowledge in migration and economic issues, to
survey and analyze economic and political factors triggering migration to the United
States, with emphasis on issues relating to women, unaccompanied children, ethnic
minorities and other vulnerable populations.
We recommend that the government of the United States develop strategies to
assist countries experiencing economic diffculties or social unrest, leading to mass
migration of men, women and children to the United States. The US government
should tackle migration factors in these communities and work with interested
governments to provide for their citizens.
Cross-border partnerships between governmental, community and faith-based
organizations should be developed to provide migrants in border communities with
education and services to better understand the migration process. These programs
should provide educational materials on the dangers of migration, and medical and
support services to injured migrants.
The US government, in partnership with the Mexican government, should study
the impact of migration on border communities and small businesses and coordinate
statistical information relating to migration in these areas. Local businesses
adversely impacted by increased migration should be eligible for fnancial assistance
and development support.
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resemble domestic shelter
and foster care programs.
However, detained migrant
children in federal shelter
care detention are
treated much differently
than domestic child care
programs. Although the
shelter staff provides
counseling, education,
housing and other services
to children, the children
are awaiting removal
from the United States
and are restricted in their
movement. The delegation
also observed the types of
detention practices used
and how detained children
conduct themselves in these different settings. Many facilities for unaccompanied alien
children resemble the lock-down detention settings favored by the former Immigration
and Naturalization Service (INS), where children are detained in large-scale facilities,
some of which care for over 100 children on a daily basis. This institutionalization
of children is incompatible with US child welfare practices and creates problems for
anuel is a 14-year-old boy
from Honduras in federal
custody. He left home months
ago carrying all the hopes of his family.
They had little food and his parents could
not fnd enough work to support the fam-
ily. Manuel is the oldest of fve children.
The family gathered what resources they
could and sent Manuel to the United
States to do what he could to earn money
and help them all survive.
After a frightening journey through
Mexico, harassed by gangs, riding the
trains (he was witness to another migrant
losing his foot after falling from a train),
and crossing the desert with other boys,
he reached the border where he was
caught by La Migra. He was placed by
the government in a shelter with other
unaccompanied children.
While talking with the bishops, Manuel
burst into tears. He said he wanted to
help his family because they are so poor,
but he realizes he cannot. He will soon
be returned home where his family will
still be destitute. He did not succeed in
the quest he was sent on and has no hope
now to help his family.
The Lost Dream: Manuels Story
Mural at Casa
San Juan painted
by one of the
migrant residents
that portrays his
journey across
the desert. This
shelter in Houston
for migrants was
one of the stops
of the delegation,
where a Mass was
celebrated and a
meal was shared
with the migrants.
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shelter staff, particularly in developing working relationships with vulnerable and often
traumatized children. Of note, however, was the difference observed between childrens
experience in small-group home settings and foster care programs and their experience
in larger, institutional facilities. For example, the bishops observed that children appeared
more relaxed and child-staff relationships were more individualized within the former
types of programs.
The staff of federal immigrant detention programs discussed increased diffculties in caring
for unaccompanied alien children, providing for their welfare and reuniting them with family
members in the United States. Several reasons were mentioned, including the immigration
status of family members, language and cultural barriers, unfamiliarity with US immigration
policies, growing adolescent medical and mental health issues, and general distrust of law
enforcement personnel. Undocumented parents, who are in the United States, are fearful of
coming forward to claim their detained children, because they fear their own removal from
the United States. This leaves children alone to face the United States immigration system.
Finally, the arduous journey and circumstances of their lives has led to more and more of
these children being diagnosed with serious medical and mental health problems. These
children require specialized treatment and care.
The delegation spoke with federal representatives and detention staff who expressed
concern about the nature of the detention and placement of unaccompanied alien children.
It has become increasingly diffcult to fnd appropriate placement for these children.
While general child welfare practices promote the use of least restrictive facilities, foster
and small group care, and parental-like
care, the bishops are concerned that such
principles are not adhered to in federal
detention practices and that even children
12 years of age and younger are sometimes
held in large institutional facilities. These
children have no criminal background
and are confned solely because of their
immigration status. It is important that
children be reunited with available family
members or placed in the least restrictive
setting, such as family foster care, that is
appropriate for their age and circumstances.
The Catholic Charities offce in Houston,
Texas has developed a mental health
program that works with children to
transition into life in the United States
or where removal may occur, provides
counseling while the child is detained. The
Bishop Ochoa
and Bonna
Kol meet with
children at
Charities in
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children are encouraged to illustrate their migration experiences and through this artistic
interpretation deal with the trauma or depression caused by their situation. Through
the support and guidance of clinical psychologists, the children served have been able
to illustrate through pictures the diffcult and often violent circumstances that have led
them to be in the United States. These children have traveled hundreds of miles on foot,
risked their health in boxcars and been physically and/or sexually assaulted. As the bishops
and their staff listened to these heart-wrenching stories, they understood the diffculties
experienced by these children and their families. One young girl spoke through tears,
begging the bishops for their support and prayers not only for herself, but for any child
that makes the diffcult journey alone.
Many of the children who met with the bishops discussed the diffculty and horrors
experienced in their respective journeys. Many had witnessed death and experienced
violence. Although the normal age range of unaccompanied alien children is 12-17 years
old, children as young as 18 months are detained in federal immigration facilities in the
United States. These children and their families often view their failure to enter the
United States and fnd employment as a personal failure and disappointment.
Observation 3: How Can You Listen to Our Stories
If We Do Not Speak the Same Language?
Other complications relating to reunifcation involve communication barriers between
care providers for children in custody and children and family members, causing some
families to navigate family reunifcation processes without someone to speak with in their
own language. When a care provider is unable to communicate with children or their
family members in their primary language, the system of care may not be able to ensure
safe and appropriate family reunifcation or fully assess a childs needs. Unfortunately, this
practice also potentially exposes children to individuals who are not acting in the childs
best interests, and in fact may be involved in criminal activities.
Federal detention programs should coordinate an agreement with federal law
enforcement agencies that allows for the safe release of unaccompanied alien
children to family members, without exposing an individual to apprehension or
removal while reuniting with a child. Parents and guardians in particular, regardless
of immigration status, should have assistance in the reunifcation process without
fear of removal and further family separation.
ORR and other federal agencies responsible for the detention of immigrants should
prioritize future program development and funding for placements in foster care
and small group home facilities or detention alternatives and reduce the use of
large-scale facilities.
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Unaccompanied alien children migrating to the United States arrive from a number
of nations including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, China, or
India. Children of other nationalities migrate to the United States as well. Not every
alien child who enters the United States is Spanish-speaking or able to communicate in
the English language to an extent that allows them to speak with law enforcement, legal
service providers or social welfare agencies. An increasing number of children arrive from
indigenous communities or ethnically diverse populations, speaking languages and dialects
that are unfamiliar to Spanish-speaking workers. For example, although Guatemala is
generally recognized as a Spanish-speaking country, Spanish is not spoken universally
among its population and many citizens have little understanding of the Spanish language.
Twenty one distinct languages are spoken throughout Guatemala, often exclusively
by specifc indigenous groups. How can children from these indigenous communities
communicate their concerns and request assistance from law enforcement offcials or social
welfare providers? Immigration offcials, child care professionals and immigration advocates
throughout the delegations trip reported diffculties in understanding and communicating
with unaccompanied alien children and family members who are unable to speak English
and whose primary language is indigenous to the region. Some individuals appeared
unaware that some migrants from Mexico and Central America did not speak Spanish.
According to legal service providers and feld coordinators, there are an increasing number
of indigenous children arriving in the United States, many from rural areas in Southern
Mexico and Central America. This population has created great diffculties in placement
decisions and legal representation. Social and legal service providers may fnd it diffcult
to develop professional working relationships with unaccompanied alien children who are
Bishop Barnes
speaks with
migrants at
Casa Juan
Diego shelter
for migrants in
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unable to speak a common language and as a result fnd it diffcult to pursue the childs
best interests.
Observation 4: We Recognize the Dangers,
But For Us There Really Is No Other Option.
A majority of unaccompanied alien children in custody are apprehended while attempting
to enter the United States without inspection. Many children discussed multiple entry
attempts to the United States and the feeling of disappointment and failure at having
been unsuccessful. These children assert that their journey will continue until they have
successfully entered the country. Unfortunately, multiple entry attempts greatly increase a
childs exposure to criminal, social and environmental dangers.
Unaccompanied alien children who are apprehended by law enforcement at the border
or at a port of entry to the United States are generally placed in immigration removal
proceedings and then transferred to the custody of the federal Offce of Refugee
Resettlement, US Department of Health and Human Services (ORR/DHHS) while the
proceedings are pending. However, children from a contiguous country of the United
States Mexico, for example are processed differently and expeditiously returned to
their country of origin without a hearing before an immigration judge. Throughout the
delegation trip, immigration offcials referenced standard policy that Mexican children
We encourage all government agencies that interact with undocumented
populations to implement linguistic and cultural identifcation programs and
trainings. Each agency should have language interpreter resources that are available
for all foreign languages encountered.
Immigration enforcement agencies and government-contracted child care
providers should be required to have access to multi-lingual interpreter services for
interviewing non-citizens.
We encourage increased resources for the national feld coordinator program,
shelter care facilities, social welfare programs, interpreter services and legal counsel,
providing services to unaccompanied alien children.
In situations involving communication problems with indigenous populations,
individuals and organizations should pursue independent interpreter services in
a timely manner. This is particularly true for Guatemalans who currently show a
lower release rate than other national groups which prevents the release of children.
Detention policies should prioritize the safe release of vulnerable children and
indigenous populations to family members in the US while immigration removal
proceedings or an immigration application is pending.
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apprehended at a port of entry or along the US border are returned to Mexico without
review by an immigration judge. This practice is based on an international agreement
between the United States and Mexico for the safe return of Mexican nationals. The
bishops saw the harmful reality of these agreements for many children who might
otherwise qualify for immigration benefts in the United States if they were entitled to
a hearing before an immigration judge. Also, the risk that child traffcking victims are
returned to Mexico without further investigation and services becomes greater when the
standard practice is expedited removal.
Unaccompanied alien children experience all the dangers faced by undocumented adults.
However, their age and inexperience make them highly vulnerable to injury and abuse.
Many children who spoke with the bishops described their families extreme poverty, their
diffculties in pursuing an education, and the violence caused by social unrest in their
communities. They explained how such experiences oblige them to seek employment in
the United States in order to provide for themselves and their families. Other children
have not seen their parents in years, many since they were infants, because their parents
have been in the United States for many years. These children, regardless of their
purpose, are driven to enter the United States to escape a sad reality that should never be
experienced by any child.
Observation 5: We Are Victims, Yet We
Are Not Protected From Those Who Harm Us.
The Traffcking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was enacted to combat the traffcking of
human beings through the effective prosecution and punishment of traffcking violators and
the protection of traffcking victims. These efforts are undermined when federal, state and
local law enforcement personnel are uninformed or unaware of the rights and protections
that are available under US law.
The U.S. government should review repatriation agreements with contiguous
countries that do not refect its commitments and responsibilities to certain vulnerable
populations. Federal agencies and non-governmental organizations should examine
the repatriation process and the effectiveness of organizations involved.
A multinational unaccompanied child support network should be developed that
provides housing, counseling and legal services to children migrating to the United
A public awareness campaign should be developed that highlights the social and
environmental risks relating to migratory movements, especially to vulnerable
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The delegation met with multiple federal agencies responsible for the enforcement
of immigration and traffcking laws in the United States. These offcers described
their role in law enforcement and what their mandated
responsibilities were along the US borders and interior
of the country according to federal immigration laws.
However, the federal agents appeared unaware of their
responsibilities in dealing with traffcking victims, especially
children. Often the issue of human traffcking was confused
with apprehension of human smuggling offenders. The
clear priority among these agencies is law enforcement
and the removal of undocumented immigrants. However,
there was no acknowledgement among many of the federal
agencies of a role in the identifcation of victims of human
traffcking. Each agency deferred to others to carry out
this function. There is a signifcant difference between
acts relating to human smuggling and human traffcking.
Although the two are often related, human traffcking
and its victims must be treated differently. In general, the
difference between these two acts is the motivating factor
of the smuggler/traffcker and the voluntary participation of
the victim.
The bishops met with the US Attorneys Offce in Houston,
Texas and were given a general outline of collaborative efforts in the City of Houston for
the protection of traffcking victims. Through the leadership of the US Attorneys Offce
he US Attorney in Houston,
Texas has successfully pros-
ecuted multiple cases involv-
ing hundreds of women from Mexico,
El Salvador and Honduras - including
several minors - who were illegally traf-
fcked into the United States to serve as
prostitutes through the use of force, fraud
and coercion for the fnancial beneft of
Texas-based human traffcking operations.
These young women entered the United
States under false pretenses, having been
promised better lives, work in the United
States, and romantic companionship in
this country. The women arrived in Texas,
were forced to cohabitate with each other
in small apartments leased by their traf-
fckers and required to work as prostitutes
in area bars. The women were victim-
ized and threatened with physical assault
and bodily injury, causing them to be too
afraid to escape or report these crimes.
Ultimately, those charged with conspiring
to sex traffc these young women and girls
were sentenced on these offenses.
Justice Served:
United States v. Salazar / United States v. Molina
There is a special evil in the
abuse and exploitation of the most
innocent and vulnerable. We
must show new energy in fghting
back against an old evil. Nearly
two centuries after the abolition of
the transatlantic slave trade, and
more than a century after slavery
was offcially ended in its last
strongholds, the trade in human
beings for any purpose must not
be allowed to thrive in our time.
President George W. Bush, Sept 2003.
Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer 15
and the active participation of community-based organizations, an anti-traffcking task
force has evolved that is a model for other communities. The US Attorney has successfully
managed the development of a completely community-based coalition whose purpose is to
identify traffcking situations, prosecute offenders and protect victims. The US Attorney
recognizes the limitations of such coalitions and his ability to prosecute traffckers. In
Houston, the anti-traffcking task force has helped rescue and provide assistance to nearly
100 victims of human traffcking, and has convicted multiple defendants on traffcking
charges involving forced prostitution and forced labor.
The TVPA promotes human rights and the protection of persons, including children, against
any threat of violence and exploitation. It seeks to eliminate human traffcking and prosecute
to the fullest extent its perpetrators through the establishment of institutional mechanisms
for the protection and support of traffcked persons and provides penalties for violations of
the law. Additionally, it offers victims of human traffcking assistance and services to handle
the traumatic impact of these crimes. The bishops discussed traffcking-related investigations
and prosecutions with law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and legal aid organizations
in Houston, Texas. The anti-traffcking partnership in Houston was highly effective in
prosecuting traffcking offenses and shutting down several operations. However, in relation
to services and assistance for the child traffcking victims involved in these cases, the work
in Houston was ineffective. Several law enforcement offcials did not know how to refer
the children to ORR/DHHS for appropriate care or traffcking benefts. As a result, several
child victims were without services and some were removed from the United States. In many
Migrants chat
with delegation
members outside
a boarding house
in Altar, MX.
They expressed
concern about the
lack of welcome
and ill treatment
many migrants
experience in the
16 Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer
cases, child traffcking victims are not referred for benefts and services, and are placed in
removal proceedings. Law enforcement offcials throughout the delegation demonstrated a
misunderstanding on how child victims are identifed and referred for benefts and services.
As a result, many children are not receiving the necessary treatment and support that is
needed to handle the trauma of human traffcking.
The greatest diffculties arise in the identifcation of traffcking schemes, recruiting witness
testimony and defning the traffcking situation under federal and state laws. Better efforts must
be made to inform the public about human traffcking and methods to identify victims. Federal
law enforcement agencies must accept responsibility for the protection of all traffcking victims,
regardless of their nationality.
The US government should work in partnership with foreign states to promote and
develop programs with regional, state and local governmental and non-governmental
organizations that help traffcking victims reintegrate in society and provide victims
with appropriate assistance and services.
We encourage the implementation of international agreements with the purpose of
monitoring and combating human traffcking internationally, especially traffcking
operations that impact vulnerable populations and children. Anti-traffcking
agreements should encourage the participation of traffcking nations. Further
international anti-traffcking partnerships will increase the understanding of human
traffcking and improve the capacity to serve victims and prosecute traffckers.
Federal and state law enforcement agencies, including border patrol and customs
enforcement, should develop training programs in consultation with non-
governmental agencies and traffcking service providers that address human
traffcking topics and interviewing techniques for victims of trauma and crime.
A better understanding of the human traffcking laws and the role of law
enforcement in anti-traffcking programs, will improve frst response resources.
The US Department of Labor should enhance its efforts to combat labor traffcking and
develop programs specifc to forced labor and child labor issues.
We encourage increased administrative and legislative advocacy to facilitate the
access to benefts for child traffcking victims, improve the eligibility standards
for traffcking victims generally, and develop independent anti-traffcking law
enforcement divisions.
Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer 17
Observation 6: We Are Children and Need to Be With Our Families.
The bishops spoke with individuals and groups who provide counseling, legal representation
and other services to unaccompanied alien children. Their common concern was the diffculty
in reuniting a child with his family in the United States. Unaccompanied alien children
generally know where their families are in the US and that they are unwilling or unable
to come forward to claim them. Many children who are unable to be reunited with family
members demonstrate depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. In extreme
cases, children have been abandoned or orphaned in their country of origin and realize that
deportation will lead them into the diffcult choice of living as a gang member or street child.
These children demonstrate the same behavioral characteristics as any child who is separated
from their family.
The delegation became aware of the frustrations faced by the children and the shelter staff
who are unable to complete reunifcation. The US immigration laws permit very little
legal relief for unaccompanied alien children seeking family reunifcation. The law does
not extend any protection to a child or parent seeking to be reunited in the United States
and, unfortunately, the US immigration offcials have used detained children as bait for the
enforcement of immigration laws against parents and guardians.
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the primary federal law on
immigration policies and practices in the United States, regulating the admissibility of
non-citizens into the country. This law exposes minors to improper treatment in many
Bishops meet
with the US
Attorney for
the Southern
District of
Texas, Donald J.
DeGabrielle, Jr.
to discuss child
traffcking issues.
18 Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer
circumstances. For example, child asylum applicants are treated in the same way as adult
applicants and unaccompanied alien children in federal custody are required to process
their asylum application before an immigration judge in
removal proceedings. This process, known as defensive
asylum, places the child in an adversarial setting in which
he or she is interrogated by federal trial attorneys on the
merits of an asylum claim. In addition, many children
with asylum claims based on persecution, torture and
mistreatment are detained in federal custody pending a
fnal decision on their application.
The delegation spoke with several legal aid providers who
highlighted problems with US immigration policies and
expressed disapproval of federal policies and practices
dealing with children. It has become diffcult to represent
children and recruit pro-bono counsel for children because
the laws are too restrictive in administering a childs case.
The law provides limited relief for children in federal
custody and makes the process so diffcult that many
children ultimately choose removal from the United States.
The law should accommodate the special circumstances of
unaccompanied alien children and provide a safe and relaxed venue for children to present
an asylum claim or request an immigration beneft.
I hope that a balanced
management of migratory
fows and of human mobility in
general will soon be achieved so
as to beneft the entire human
family, starting with practical
measures that encourage legal
emigration and the reunion
of families, and paying special
attention to women and minors.
Pope Benedict XVI, 2007 World Day of
Migrants and Refugees Message
The bishops
visit a holding
cell in the
Border Patrol
Station in
Nogales, AZ.
Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer 19
US federal immigration agencies should implement policies and practices that
accommodate the special circumstances and vulnerability of unaccompanied alien
children. Such policies should provide special treatment to child asylum seekers and
appropriate care pending the adjudication of a childs asylum claim. Child asylum
applicants in removal proceedings should be allowed to pursue an asylum claim
before the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) affrmative process.
The Immigration and Nationality Act and correlated regulations should be amended
to address the immediate and long-term needs of migrant children. Children in
detention and in the immigration process should be treated in a different manner
than adults and the laws should recognize their vulnerabilities.
Immigration law should incorporate best interest standards for children and provide
appropriate immigration relief options to protect vulnerable children.
US federal law-enforcement agencies should minimize or prohibit the detention of
unaccompanied alien children who demonstrate a fear of return, mental, emotional,
or physical trauma, or victimization.
We encourage administrative and legislative advocacy for the application of best
interest principles in the care, benefts, and release of unaccompanied alien
children in federal detention. Legislation should promote fair and humane family-
based immigration policies, providing non-citizens with a structured path to lawful
status in the United States.
Observation 7: We Need Laws That Protect
and Offer Hope to Migrants
The desire of immigrants to be reunited with family members in the United States is
a strong factor infuencing their migration. Although many migrant families never live
permanently in the United States, restrictive immigration policies have caused many
immigrants who would otherwise go back and forth between countries, to stay in this
country and bring their family members to join them. The existing US immigration system
limits the annual number of visas available to non-citizens and restricts their admissibility to
such an extent that some family members are required to wait over 20 years before they can
be reunited with loved ones in this country. This immigration structure does not work and is
in need of reform.
The bishops spoke with social welfare agencies and legal service providers who expressed
concern about how immigration and social welfare laws limit the availability of services
to non-citizens and their family members. Undocumented migrants are already among
the most vulnerable in any community and these laws increase their vulnerabilities. One
migrant asked the bishops why Americans willingly employee migrant workers, but refuse
2O Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer
The bishops
and Anastasia
participate in
a round table
on child
traffcking with
members of the
Houston Area
Coalition and
ICMC staff
who work with
National, state and local advocacy groups should continue to promote equitable
immigration laws and policies that honor the principle of family unity. The laws
should better refect the percentage of intending immigrants.
Legislative and administrative policies should support a temporary worker strategy
that protects American workers and facilitates the need of American businesses to
pursue labor in foreign markets.
to provide them with lawful status or labor protections. These migrants understand that
American workers and the foreign workers are treated differently, but they are left with
few, if any options, to regularize their status.
Bishops present
award to Catholic
Charities in
Houston for
their outstanding
service to
migrant children.
A press conference
was held in
conjunction with
this presentation.
Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer 21
he delegation is impressed with the commitment of the Catholic and faith-based
community in caring for undocumented migrants, young and old, in the United
States. The United States is a nation of immigrants though many Americans dis-
count our rich immigrant tradition by seeking immigration laws that restrict and remove
non-citizens from this country. There are an estimated 12 million undocumented persons
living in the United States. These men, women and children do not have the rights and
liberties that are expected in American society.
The delegation appreciates the vital role of federal prosecutors and law enforcement
agents in the administration and enforcement of the immigration laws of this country. The
individuals and groups who met with the bishops generally demonstrated a concern for the
safety and well-being of migrant children. Limited resources and insuffcient training create
barriers for these individuals and agencies; however, these can be overcome.
We continue to support the work that provides refuge and care to these migrants and
we pledge to pursue legislation that will better attend to the needs of these vulnerable
populations. Our continued prayers are for the migrants and their families in the diffcult
process of migration.
22 Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer
Individuals And Organizations Visited
John Fitzpatrick, Patrol Agent-in-Charge
US Customs and Border Protection
Nogales, AZ
Donald J. DeGabrielle Jr., United States Attorney
Southern District
Houston, TX
Edward F. Gallagher, III, Assistant US Attorney
and Deputy Chief
Criminal Division
Houston, TX
Ruben R. Perez, Assistant US Attorney & Chief
Civil Rights Division
Houston, TX
Scott Hatfeld, Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge
US Immigration & Customs Enforcement
Houston, TX.
Honorable Robert Hough, Immigration Judge
Executive Offce for Immigration Review
El Paso, TX
Luis Garcia, Director, Field Operations
US Customs and Border Patrol
El Paso, TX
Bonna Kol and
Joe Rubio
a token of
to the bishops.
Government Offcials:
Tle lost Dream: LnaccompanieJ Mi,rant ClilJren anJ Victims of Human Trafnckin, on tle LS/Mexico LorJer 23
Wafa Abdin, Supervising Attorney
Catholic Charities, St. Francis Cabrini Center for
Immigration Legal Assistance
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Sister Liliane Alam, FMM, Executive Director
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
El Paso, TX
Iliana Holguin, Executive Director
Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services (DMRS)
Diocese of El Paso
M. Aryah Somers, Esq., Childrens Staff Attorney
Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project
Phoenix, AZ
Pablo Bobbio, Ph.D, Counseling Services Volunteer
Catholic Charities, St. Michaels Home for Children
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Erica Dahl-Bredine, Mexico Country Manager
Catholic Relief Services
Tucson, AZ
Ron Dankowski, Executive Director
Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona
Diocese of Tucson
Debra Fergus, Case Management Supervisor
Catholic Charities, Unaccompanied Refugee
Minors Program
Phoenix, AZ
Rene Franco, Program Coordinator
Immigration & Citizenship Program
Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona
Diocese of Tucson
Leticia Harmon, Program Director
Catholic Charities
St. Michaels Home for Children
Unaccompanied Alien Children Program
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Peg Harmon, CEO
Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona
Tucson, AZ
Deacon Joe Rubio, Vice President for Commmunity
Relations & Development
Catholic Charities
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Tricia Hoyt, Director
Offce of Peace & Justice
Diocese of Phoenix
Tim Jefferson, Case Manager and
Outreach Coordinator
Arizona League to End Regional Traffcking
Phoenix, AZ
Beth Ann Johnson, Volunteer Director
Casa San Juan Diocesan Migrant Service Center
Houston, TX
Bonna Kol, President/CEO
Catholic Charities
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Ferdinand Lossavi Lossou, Refugee Resettlement
Program Director
Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona
Tucson, AZ
Father Prisciliano Peraza, Pastor
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Centro
Comunitario de Atencin al Migrante y Necesitado
Altar, MX
Joanne Welter, Director
Catholic Social Mission
Diocese of Tucson
Mr. Mark & Mrs. Louise Zwick, Executive Directors
Casa Juan Diego
Houston, Texas
Non-Governmental Organizations (Legal Services):
Non-Governmental Organizations (Social Services):
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Traffcking on the US/Mexico Border
24 The Lost Dream: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Victims of Human Traffcking on the US/Mexico Border
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Migration and Refugee Services
3211 4th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017