Mexican child migrants try border crossings multiple times, study says

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Story highlights

  • A Pew Center report looked at attempted illegal border crossings by Mexican minors
  • The report counted 11,000 who tried to cross between October 1 and May 31
  • Fifteen percent of those minors had been caught and deported at least six times
  • Poverty and violence in Mexico are often reasons children leave home for the U.S.

New research focusing on underage Mexican immigrants trying to cross the border illegally into the United States shows these minors don't put aside their American dream easily, even if caught multiple times by immigration authorities.

According to a new report published by the Pew Research Center, out of 11,000 Mexican minors who tried to cross the border illegally between last October 1 and May 31, "only 2,700 children (24% of all the apprehensions) reported being apprehended for the first time in their lives."

This means that more than three-quarters of the children have been caught trying to cross the border illegally more than once. According to the report, 15% of these would-be migrants had been detained by immigration authorities and deported at least six times.

Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center, said his team started analyzing the data with no preconceived notions.

"We had no sense of how many times young people from Mexico had tried to cross the border," Lopez said. "In conversations with officials at the Mexican embassy we found out they had very specific data about the minors apprehended by immigration authorities, information that they have been collecting."

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The data from Mexican officials was then checked against data collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and researchers found there was correlation. U.S. immigration authorities notify Mexican consular officials of apprehensions per agreements between the two nations.

When it comes to reasons why these children are choosing to leave home, Lopez said poverty and increased violence are the two main factors.

"Most of these young children are coming from border states, particularly Tamaulipas (south of Texas) which accounts for more than one quarter (3,077) of all those apprehended," Lopez said. Other Mexican states with large number of migrant children are Sonora, which is south of Arizona, 1,160; Oaxaca, 884; Guerrero, 750: Guanajuato, 716; and Michoacán, 645.

Tamaulipas has been plagued by violence over the last few years as two rival Mexican criminal organizations battle for territory. Michoacán saw an increase in violence over the last year as groups of vigilantes took up arms to drive away a drug cartel.

Unlike Central American children, Mexican minors are deported almost immediately. A 2008 human trafficking law requires migrant children to be processed by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). But the law doesn't apply to minors from the two U.S. neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico.

Lopez said there are also demographic differences between Central Americans and Mexicans.

"Central Americans are traveling a long distance, so crossing a second time is not very easy. Another big difference is that most Mexican underage migrants are males in their late teens, whereas Central Americans come in all ages, some younger than 12, and the number of girls tends to be higher," he said.