Urged by local media, minors from Mexico and Central America are clogging Border Patrol stations.
Border Patrol officials struggling to keep up with the increasing number of minors illegally crossing the Mexican border are not turning away persons with known gang affiliations. Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 in the Rio Grande Valley, explained that a Border Patrol agent he represents helped reunite a teenage gang member with his family in the United States. Cabrera notes the young member of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), a transnational criminal gang, had no criminal record in the U.S., but asks, “If he’s a confirmed gang member in his own country, why are we letting him in here?”
“I’ve heard people come in and say, ‘You’re going to let me go, just like you let my mother go, just like you let my sister go. You’re going to let me go as well, and the government’s going to take care of us,’” Cabrera says. “Until we start mandatory detentions, mandatory removals, I don’t think anything is going to change. As a matter of fact, I think it’s going to get worse.”
Art Del Cueto, president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson, says agents who recognize the gang-affiliated tattoos of minors crossing the border must treat them the same as anybody else. He says these people are afforded the same rights provided to anyone crossing the border.
“It’s upsetting that a lot of them are 16 or 17 years old and a lot of them are not going to face deportation,” Cueto says. He has visited the Nogales station, which he estimates is holding 1,100 children who crossed the border. The children have been sent from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and have also crossed the border near the Nogales station, he says.