MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities took custody of 74 American youths who were attending two irregularly operated boarding schools and returned them to the United States on Thursday.
The youths, who were found to be in Mexico without proper travel or residency documents, were handed over to U.S. consular officials and then taken to Los Angeles, the Interior Department (search), which oversees migratory issues, said in a press statement.
The statement bore the title: "The immigration institute rescues 74 U.S. youths with supposed behavioral problems." U.S. consular authorities were not immediately available for comment on the whereabouts of the students.
The Interior Department said the schools — which it identified as the "The Mission" school in Ensenada, Baja California, and the "Abundant Life Academy" in the town of Chapala in Jalisco state — were raided because they "did not comply with sanitary regulations."
"It is important to stress that none of the raids involved violence, and the human rights and personal safety of the youths were fully respected," the Interior Department press statement said.
Immigration agents found 57 students at the Ensenada facility and 17 in Chapala. Mexican authorities identified the schools as facilities for children "with behavior problems."
An Abundant Life Web site described the Abundant Life Academy (search) at Lake Chapala as "the answer for the gifted yet immature American troubled teen that is unmotivated and rebellious toward parental authority."
The slogan of the facility is "Jesus is the only answer," and says the academy "is essentially a school for students who need to get back on track, to mature emotionally and spiritually, and learn that they are not the center of the universe."
Chapala is a lakeside community about 230 miles west of Mexico City popular among U.S. expatriates and retirees.
Some schools in Ensenada, meanwhile, have had a history of problems.
In September, a lack of qualified doctors and reports that some teens were being abused prompted Mexican authorities to shut down three centers for troubled youths in Baja California.
Mexican officials sent home 564 U.S. teenagers found at the Casa by the Sea (search) and Casa de la Esperanza schools in Ensenada, on the Pacific coast about 60 miles south of San Diego, California, after authorities found no qualified medical personnel worked at the schools and no records were being kept on the teenagers.
At the same time, about 26 teenagers from the Genesis center in Rosarito, about 15 miles south of the U.S. border — were also sent home after Mexican immigration and health authorities carried out a surprise inspection.
All 590 teenagers did not have proper paperwork to be in Mexico.