San Diego

Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Boy Held at Local Border Patrol Facility for 7 Days, Lawyer says

Update on Friday, May 3: Following Thursday’s federal court hearing, a judge approved an attorney's request to transfer the unaccompanied minor to Southwest Key, a migrant youth shelter. 

A local attorney told a federal judge Thursday that an unaccompanied minor is being held unlawfully at a U.S. Border Patrol facility in San Diego.

The minor is a 15-year-old boy from Mexico who was detained on April 24. The teen did not leave border patrol facilities until his court hearing seven days later, according to court documents.

Attorney Stacey Kartchner filed a court order in which she called this an unlawful detention.

The order said the government has violated the Flores Settlement Agreement in which unaccompanied minors must be put into the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody within three days. It stated the government also violated the teen’s Sixth Amendment right as he was denied legal representation for eight days.

A complaint stated the teen crossed the border illegally near Tecate, Mexico, and was going to pay $8,500 to a smuggler.

The boy got inside a car with two others and a smuggler until they were stopped and detained at State Route 94 Brown Field Border Patrol Checkpoint in Jamul, according to documents. This ended their ride which would have taken them to San Bernardino.

The smuggler was arrested and the teen is now a witness for a criminal case.

During federal court Thursday afternoon, Kartchner told Judge Jill Burkhardt she repeatedly contacted ORR since April 29, but she was told ORR did not have the minor in their system until Wednesday.

Kartchner asked the Judge that the teen be moved out of the Border Patrol facilities and to Southwest Key, a migrant youth shelter.

Immigration activists told NBC 7 the government needs to place unaccompanied minors in appropriate youth facilities and that they have the right to legal representation.

“We need to make sure his humanitarian needs are being met, and he’s not incarcerated in a place where he doesn’t know when his next meal might be or when or not he’ll be able to see an attorney for his case,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee.

Rios said the government is violating several rules.

“In this case being held for seven days, we know he’s in a Border Patrol facility that simply isn’t outfitted to hold minors for a long duration of time and for that reasons these rules and agreements exist,” said Rios.

A status conference hearing has been set for May 9 where the judge is expected to make a decision.

“If it was a U.S. citizen and he was held without any opportunity to have counsel meet with him people would be upset,” said Rios. “But, since he’s a migrant and doesn’t have a name we see that there’s no outrage.”

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