More than 57,000 children fleeing violence and endemic poverty have come to the United States border in 2014 according to Customs and Border Protection. A majority of them could actually qualify to stay in the country under protected status. But more than half of them will not have the legal help to prove it.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Office for Refugees in the US found that as many as 60 percent of these children could qualify as child refugees or some other form of humanitarian relief that would allow them to stay in the United States. The other 40 percent are economic refugees fleeing endemic poverty or are seeking family reunification. The United Nations has advocated for an immigration procedure that would allow the children to state their cases.
But under the current system, more than half of the children coming from Central America will not have a lawyer or any form of legal counsel to state their cases in immigration court. This is according to an ongoing study by TRAC, a program at Syracuse University that tracks immigration procedures.
Sarah Gonzalez spoke to Stacy Jones, an attorney at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, about what it’s like to be underage and alone in immigration court.
Stacy Jones is Senior Staff Attorney at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. USCRI’s Immigrant Children’s Legal Program provides pro bono legal assistance to unaccompanied immigrant children in removal proceedings before the various immigration courts throughout the United States. Stacy has previously served as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at USCRI and worked in private practice, for other nonprofit organizations, and for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She is also a contributor to The Migrationist, an international immigration blog. She received her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, after earning a B.A. in Spanish and International Relations from Lehigh University. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Photo of Southwest Key compound in Lakeside, CA, 2005 by SandyHuffaker/GettyImages