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Juvenile Repatriation Practices at Border
Patrol Sectors on the Southwest Border

Report Number I-2001-010
September 2001


The Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division, reviewed whether the Border Patrol promptly repatriates unaccompanied Mexican juveniles to Mexico. In FY 2000, the Border Patrol apprehended 94,823 accompanied and unaccompanied Mexican juveniles that it subsequently repatriated to Mexico. Our review focused on the El Centro Border Patrol Sector in California, one of the nine sectors along the Southwest Border. We also conducted 1-day unannounced visits at seven additional Border Patrol stations across the Southwest Border.

We found that the El Centro Border Patrol Sector (Sector) often detains unaccompanied Mexican juveniles in its holding cells for periods of extended confinement due to problems with the repatriation process. The Sector detains these juveniles in facilities that were built for temporary confinement. We concluded that the Sector's local juvenile repatriation policy, described in three different Sector memoranda, do not facilitate compliance. We found incomplete Sector record keeping procedures that made it difficult to establish a complete custody history for juveniles apprehended and repatriated. We also found that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has not established national guidelines for the Border Patrol to apply to unaccompanied Mexican juveniles it intends to repatriate to Mexico.

Our 1-day unannounced visits found that the seven other Border Patrol locations detained apprehended juveniles for only a matter of hours before repatriating them to Mexico. However, we did find problems with record keeping and with physical conditions in some of the holding cells at several locations.

This report contains seven recommendations to modify repatriation policies, to develop detention options for juveniles that cannot be repatriated within hours of apprehension, and to establish national guidelines for unaccompanied Mexican juveniles apprehended by the Border Patrol. These seven recommendations should reduce the time unaccompanied Mexican juveniles remain in Border Patrol holding cells and improve the safety and welfare of juveniles that cannot be promptly repatriated.