'Accompanied Minor Child' — The Disturbing New Trend in Border Entries

Prosecute the parents and guardians to keep the trend from rising

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 22, 2019

The latest border numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are out, and there is a lot of good in them. Not great, but good. There is a disturbing new trend that is showing up in CBP statistics, however, that is not positive: inadmissible accompanied minor children.

But first, the good: The numbers of aliens apprehended entering illegally along the Southwest border or deemed inadmissible at the ports along that border are down significantly in October 2019 from the same month one year before. Specifically, there were 45,250 apprehensions/inadmissibles last month, as opposed to 60,781 in October 2018, a 25-percent decrease. The numbers in October 2019 are, more importantly, down from a high of 144,116 in May 2019 (a five-year high) and a 68.5 percent decrease overall.

The president's efforts to use diplomatic channels in Mexico and in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to stem the flow of aliens to the border, coupled with the Migration Protection Protocols ("MPP", also known as "remain in Mexico") and other administrative initiatives such as the "third-country transit bar" have plainly had an effect.

That is the good. The bad news is that the October 2019 numbers are higher than they were in October 2017 (34,871), and October 2015 (35,903), which indicates that more must and can be done to stem the illegal flow of aliens at the Southwest border.

The bad news does not end there, however. CBP is tracking a new category of inadmissible aliens: "accompanied minor child" (AMC). The agency explains: "Accompanied Minor Child represents a child accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and the parent or legal guardian is either a U.S. Citizen, Lawful Permanent Resident [LPR], or admissible alien, and the child is determined to be inadmissible." AMC joins "single adults", "unaccompanied alien child" (UAC), and family units ("FMUs", inadmissible parents and guardians travelling with inadmissible children) as categories of inadmissible aliens apprehended or deemed inadmissible along the Southwest border.

When I say that this category is "new", I should do so with the following caveat: It is new to me, and I track these numbers monthly. AMC numbers may have been in CBP statistics in previous months, but if they were I did not notice them, and while there are monthly numbers for AMCs in the FY 2019 statistics, there are none for FY 2018 or FY 2017. One thing is for certain however: The number of AMCs in October 2019 (101) was higher than any month in FY 2019 (the next closest was 92 in April 2019), and much higher than the month before (74 in September 2019).

There are two ways in which an AMC could be presented at the ports of entry: Either the U.S. citizen, LPR, or admissible alien parent or guardian "forgot" that the accompanying child did not have status in the United States; or, the U.S. citizen, LPR, or inadmissible parent or guardian was hoping that the accompanying child's papers would not be checked and that the party could pass through, freely and illegally.

In the latter scenario, there are three possible outcomes that the parent or guardian could have envisioned: that the child would enter without his or her alienage detected, or that the CBP officer at the port of entry would simply issue a notice to appear (NTA, the charging document in removal proceedings) to the child, or that the child would be separated from the parent or guardian, deemed a UAC, and sent to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shelter, to eventually be reunited with a parent or guardian in the United States.

While it is possible that a parent or guardian could have forgotten that a child did not have status, it seems fairly unlikely. The possibility of a parent or guardian attempting to pass through a port with a child who did not have papers is probably fairly likely, as a way to save the smuggling fees (and avoid the dangers that come along with smuggling) in bringing his or her child or charge to the United States. Frankly, it is likely preferable to a parent or guardian trusting a child to a criminal (which all smugglers are, and foul ones at that), and definitely is preferable so long as the parent is charged with smuggling under section 274(a)(1)(A)(iv) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

In any event, this is a fairly new phenomenon, and one that bears further attention. The numbers of AMCs deemed inadmissible thus far are low, but the numbers of UACs and FMUs deemed inadmissible used to be low in the past, too, and once aliens realized that seeking admission as an FMU or UAC without documents was an effective way to get themselves or their children into the United States, the numbers skyrocketed.

Two final points: The fact that CBP has been able to identify AMCs at the ports of entry indicates that CBP officers are cracking down on entries, and closely monitoring entrants. The second is that if CBP is not prosecuting the parents and guardians accompanying AMCs, it should be, to stop this effort before word gets around.