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In this post earlier, I mentioned that the San Diego Police Department will be at the border this weekend in an attempt to stop errant juvenile thrill-seekers from crossing the border to seek out bars and clubs in Mexico’s border towns.
I was a bit confused as to the legal basis for keeping juveniles from leaving the country, so I called a few immigration lawyers around the country.
Kathleen Moccio, an adjunct professor of law at University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, was one of the founders of the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. She said she’s never heard of a national or international law that prevents a minor from leaving the United States without permission.
Capt. Tony McElroy of the police department’s southern division set the record straight with me just now. He said the police’s actions at the border are based on city law — Ordinance O-18604 to be exact — which, in turn, is founded on California’s Welfare and Institutions Code Section 1500.
McElroy stressed that the city ordinance, and his officers’ enforcement of it, is aimed at protecting minors who travel to Mexico for less than honorable reasons. He said his officers often have to deal with drunken and drugged-up revelers crossing the border back into the United States in the early hours of the morning, and that the police presence at the border the night before helps to stem the tide of youngsters traveling across to Tijuana and beyond.
The city ordinance allows San Diego police officers to write citations if an individual “knows or reasonably should know that the juvenile crossing the border is under the age of 18 years, is not accompanied by a parent or guardian, and does not have written permission from a parent or guardian to enter Mexico,” and “facilitates” in any manner a juvenile’s crossing the border into Mexico, they can be fined $250 on first offence.
But McElroy said his officers hardly ever need to resort to writing citations.