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Juvenile Repatriation Practices at Border
Patrol Sectors on the Southwest Border

Report Number I-2001-010
September 2001


OIG investigators conducted 1-day unannounced visits on Sunday, July 15, 2001, at seven Border Patrol locations along the Southwest Border. The OIG investigators interviewed Border Patrol supervisors, Border Patrol agents, detention enforcement officers, and six juveniles in custody and reviewed five days of arrest, detention, and repatriation documents (July 10 -14, 2001) for 178 unaccompanied Mexican juveniles. The records reviewed were distributed among the seven Border Patrol stations as described in the following table.

Table 2 - Apprehended Unaccompanied Mexican Juveniles

Station Apprehended Unaccompanied Mexican Juveniles
El Cajon, CA NAa
Yuma, AZ 10
Ajo, AZ 11
Santa Teresa, NM 34
Kingsville, TX 47
McAllen, TX 39
Rio Grande City, TX 37
Total 178
Source: Local Border Patrol station apprehension data.

a Apprehension, detention, and repatriation records for the El Cajon Border Patrol Station are maintained at the San Diego Border Patrol Sector Prosecutions Office and were not at the El Cajon Border Patrol Station for our review.

The OIG investigators reported that all stations provided services to detained juveniles that included food, water, sanitary facilities, and medical attention. We found no indication of substandard conditions or mistreatment of unaccompanied juveniles. The OIG investigators interviewed six juveniles in custody during the visits. The juveniles indicated that they had been well treated and cared for while in the Border Patrol's custody. The following table shows where and when the juveniles were apprehended.

Table 3 - Interviews with Apprehended
Unaccompanied Mexican Juveniles

Station Number of Juveniles
in Custody
Day of Apprehension
Ajo, AZ 2Sunday, July 15
Santa Teresa, NM 1Sunday, July 15
McAllen, TX 1Sunday, July 15
Rio Grande City, TX 2Sunday, July 15
Source: Local Border Patrol station apprehension data.

Juvenile Repatriation Procedures

Border Patrol staff at the locations the OIG investigators visited reported that they routinely repatriated juveniles within hours of apprehension. All stated that they had a good working relationship with their local Mexican Consulate. On the rare occasions when the Mexican Consulate could not be reached (weekend, holiday) to interview the juveniles, local repatriation procedures allowed the Border Patrol to repatriate the juveniles to Mexico by turning the juveniles over to the local Mexican immigration officials. Border Patrol staff told us that if delays in repatriation occur, they are usually due to a heavy processing workload at the station, unavailability of an escort officer, or unavailability of transportation. In all cases, the stations stated that the delays amounted to no more than a few hours.

We observed juvenile repatriation practices at some stations that differed slightly and we felt they warranted discussion in our report. The Yuma Border Patrol Station staff told us that when it apprehends a juvenile, the Mexican Consular official in Calexico, California, interviews the juvenile by telephone. When the Consulate grants approval for repatriation, the Station turns the juveniles over to Mexican immigration officials at the San Luis POE for repatriation. The Station reported that it had no problems with repatriation and that it detains apprehended juveniles for two to six hours before they are repatriated.

Border Patrol staff at the Ajo Border Patrol Station reported that if its Mexican Consulate in Nogales, Arizona, cannot be contacted, it attempts to contact the Mexican Consulates in Douglas, Phoenix, or San Luis, Arizona. The Station staff reports that this process always results in timely contact with one of the consular officials and expedites the juvenile repatriation process.

Border Patrol staff at the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station reported that it does not directly repatriate apprehended aliens, including juveniles, to Mexico. The Station staff processes the juveniles and then moves them to a Border Patrol processing center at the Paso Del Norte POE in El Paso. Here, the Mexican Consulate is contacted and the juveniles are repatriated. This procedure is followed because there is not a Mexican city or town near the Santa Teresa POE.

The El Cajon Border Patrol Station staff told us that illegal aliens are rarely processed or held at the Station. When illegal aliens are apprehended, they are taken to the Border Patrol's Tecate Processing Center in Tecate, California. At this location, the juvenile's age and nationality are determined. The Mexican Consulate is notified that the Border Patrol has Mexican juveniles in custody. If the juveniles are 12 years of age and under, the San Diego County Sheriff takes the juveniles to temporary housing at the Polinski Center for Children. Juveniles over 12 years of age are moved to the Border Patrol's Transit Staging Area. This facility provides the juveniles with meals, beds, shower facilities, and toiletry items. A contract launderer is available to wash the juveniles' clothes. A Mexican consular official visits the facility every weekday morning at 9:00 a.m. to interview the Mexican juveniles. On weekends, the Mexican Consulate usually responds within one hour when paged. The Mexican consular official issues a letter to the Border Patrol authorizing the juveniles' repatriation to Mexico. The Border Patrol transports the juveniles to the Otay Mesa POE where they are turned over to Mexican immigration officials. The Border Patrol staff told us that the process from apprehension to repatriation usually takes four to eight hours but can take longer if the juveniles are apprehended after the Mexican consular official has left for the day. These juveniles must wait until the next morning for their interviews and repatriation.

Juvenile Repatriation Records

At four Border Patrol stations - Kingsville, Santa Teresa, McAllen, and Rio Grande City - we found incomplete repatriation records. The date and time of repatriation or transfer of custody were often missing on documents, as was the name of the INS officer transferring and the Mexican official taking custody of the juveniles.

The Kingsville Border Patrol Station maintained other types of records, including a feeding log that showed the day and time the aliens were provided meals. It also maintained a Ledger of Actions log that recorded the names of the aliens in custody along with the following types of associated information: meals provided, exercise times, shower provided, security checks, medications received and/or doctor visits, and telephone calls made or received. This record keeping procedure is not required, but we view this as a best practice for establishing a record for the treatment of juveniles in custody.

Physical Detention Conditions

We had concerns about the adequacy of detention facilities at four Border Patrol stations: Yuma, Santa Teresa, Rio Grande City, and McAllen. The holding cells at the Yuma Border Patrol Station were not equipped with toilets or drinking water. While these basic amenities were available upon a request from the detained adults and juveniles, providing them may not be timely and would require the availability of an INS officer. The holding cells at the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station had a foul odor and several broken floor tiles. The Station is scheduled to move to a new facility in August 2001. The Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station did not have holding cells. The detained adults and juveniles remained in a processing area during their stay at the station. The McAllen Border Patrol Station holding cells needed cleaning and had a foul odor.