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The overwhelming majority of Mexican children who are quickly deported after coming unaccompanied to the United States are trying over and over to get back to this country, a new report shows.
Three-fourths of Mexican children, who under a 2008 law can be quickly returned to their country after crossing, have been caught multiple times crossing the U.S. border. Fifteen percent reported they had been apprehended at least six times, according to the Pew analysis based on Mexican government data from Oct. 1 through May 31.
That means that although Customs and Border Protection statistics show 11,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied children under 17, some 8,000 or so of those children have been nabbed previously at least once.
Pew researcher Mark Hugo Lopez said the data is based on self-reporting by the children to Mexican officials. Lack of fingerprinting of the returned children by Mexican officials makes estimating the actual number of migrant children difficult, Pew said.
Lopez said he doubts equally high, mulitple attempts are true for the children from Central America.
"With Mexico, the proximity makes it easier to cross more than once," Lopez said.
The findings come as the federal government has spent weeks racing to deal with an influx of unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico, six to 10 times what had been the average population before their numbers began multiplying from 2011 to this year.
Before Congress left on Friday for its summer recess, the House approved a change to the 2008 law that requires Central American children be given certain immigration hearings to determine whether they qualify for asylum or other protections.
The children remain in the U.S. with a parent or other approved adult until they their turn comes for immigration hearings. The Senate did not act on that bill, which was opposed by most Democrats and the administration.
On the other hand, most Mexican children are given a chance for "voluntary departure," that is, a chance to agree to leave the country without going through official hearings and avoiding detention, which speeds up the deportation, something officials want to do for the Central American children. Mexican children are sent to the border within 72 hours and turned over to Mexican officials. Last year, 95 percent of Mexican children soon after their apprehension, Pew reported citing a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report.
Advocates fear children with verifiable cases of abuse, neglect, persecution or other issues that make them eligible for asylum or visas to stay in the U.S. get sped out of the country through such processes.
Other findings from the Pew research:
_ Mexican children are older and the vast majority are boys.
_ One-in-four children came from the state of Tamaulipas, across the border from South Texas.
_ From 2009 to 2012, the murder rate of Tamaulipas nearly quintupled to 46 per 100,000 people, higher than El Salvador, 41, and Guatemala, 40, and double the rate of Mexico overall. Honduras' murder rate was 94 per 100,000 in 2012.