Legal Protections Must be Extended to Refugee Children of Central America

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to recent federal statistics, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued deportation orders to over 7,700 children without giving any of those children the benefit of counsel or even the opportunity to appear in court and state their case. In the fall of 2013, an unprecedented number of children fled El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and came to the U.S. unaccompanied because they feared for their lives due to increased gang violence.

“We cannot continue to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Central America by sending these children back to their country of origin where their safety will unquestionably be put in jeopardy,” said LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr. “The violence in this region is real and imminent, leaving people without any options other than to make the deadly journey across the border. The real solution is, first to acknowledge the extent of the crisis in Central America, and then address the problem by providing these children with care and shelter and ultimately, with an opportunity to remain in this country.”

Earlier this year, LULAC supported legislation filed by U.S. Senator Harry Reid, The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016. The bill, among other things, would ensure that these individuals have counsel and that they receive legal orientation regarding their rights and responsibilities under immigration law. In addition, LULAC has continued to meet with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss the treatment and care of unaccompanied minors and press the Obama Administration to step up its efforts to address these issues.

“According to studies, 9 out of 10 unaccompanied minors who failed to have an attorney were deported, while those who had counsel were five times more likely to be granted protection,” said LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. “A majority of the unaccompanied children who fled persecution in Central America are eligible for legal protections that would allow them to lawfully remain in the United States. However, in order to access these protections they need an attorney to help them make their case before an immigration judge.”

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