On April 25, 2012, Mayer Brown pro bono clients Appleseed and Appleseed México won first place honors in the “major investigations” category for the 2011 report, “Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors” at the UNICEF Mexico National Awards. Since 2008, Mayer Brown has assisted Appleseed and Appleseed México with this project, which investigated the treatment of Mexican minors who are detained after crossing the border unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, and who are then returned to Mexico.
The report was a culmination of a two-year investigation that involved site visits in 14 different locations in the United States and Mexico, interviews with more than 130 detained unaccompanied children, and interviews with US and Mexican officials. The investigation sought to determine whether the United States is complying with the requirements of US federal law, and whether the welfare and rights of the unaccompanied Mexican children are being respected in the repatriation process in Mexico.
The report noted significant failures to comply with US federal law regarding the treatment of these children by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It also noted that while the Mexican government has made important strides in the care and protection of repatriated children, there are still shortcomings that make it difficult to ensure safe family reunification. Finally, the report makes recommendations for improving the screening of the estimated 15,000 unaccompanied Mexican minors apprehended by CBP each year and suggests improvement to the repatriation and reunification process in Mexico.
The Mayer Brown team that worked on the “Children at the Border” investigation and report include partners Rob Jenkins and Adrian Steel, associates Alicia Kinsey, Stephanie Roark, Gaby Sakamoto, former associate Susan Baur, and Assistant Director of Pro Bono Activities Marcia Tavares Maack.