Attorneys Granted Access To Child Migrants In Nogales Just As Facility May Be Closing

By Kate Sheehy
July 18, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. —A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled Friday that attorneys are allowed to speak with some Salvadoran child migrants at a Border Patrol facility in Nogales, Ariz. The ruling comes, though, as the number of Central American kids being detained in Arizona is dwindling and Nogales may no longer house children as early as Monday.

The judge’s court order is based on a permanent injunction put in place in the late 1980s, requiring the federal government to protect the legal rights of Salvadorans in the U.S.

Recently, several civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit after being repeatedly denied access by Customs and Border Protection to Salvadoran children held in Nogales. Karen Tumlin is the Managing Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups involved with the lawsuit. 

“Right now we’re detaining an unprecedented number of children and families who are fleeing violence in their home countries and it really underscores the need to make sure they have basic due process protections and understand their legal rights,” she said. 

It is possible that come Monday, there may not be any children at the Nogales facility for Tumlin and other attorneys to visit. 

A statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said all unaccompanied child migrants have been assigned to program shelters.

“As of yesterday, the Unaccompanied Alien Children's program has designated all minors for placement at UAC program shelters, clearing the backlog at Border Patrol stations across the country as well as the FEMA/DHS Nogales Processing Center in Arizona," the statement read.

A Border Patrol official said the agency doesn’t expect to receive any more children in Nogales, barring another surge of child migrants. Since October more than 57,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have arrived at the U.S. border. Most of the children said they are trying to escape violence and poverty in their home countries.

Tumlin said the court order allows attorneys to visit 25 Salvadoran kids in Nogales. At one point this month there were as many as 330 Salvadoran children in Nogales. They attorneys had already made an agreement with the government to visit Salvadoran adults being held at the Artesia, N.M. facility.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect an agreement to visit to Salvadoran adults at the Artesia, N.M. facility was arranged separate from the court order.

Updated 7/18/14 at 7:35 p.m.