Ever since 2014’s spike in violence in Central America that led to increased immigration of unaccompanied minors into the United States, U.S. immigration authorities have been at somewhat of a loss in how to appropriately handle the status and the overall needs of these children.
The previous administration created what was colloquially called the “rocket docket,” where unaccompanied minors with sponsors in the U.S. could be processed quickly. However, the current administration rescinded this directive, and may even seek to rescind some previously available protections, which would cause confusion and untold harm to children in this situation.
New Initiative Aims At Parents
On June 29, 2017, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new “surge initiative” aimed at adults who paid or helped their children be smuggled into the United States. Ostensibly aimed at curbing human trafficking, the primary aim of the policy has been stated to be arresting parents or other adults who aided in having a child smuggled into the country.
But the critical point is that many of these adults are the sponsors of the unaccompanied minor in question. Sponsors permit unaccompanied minors to live in the community by vouching for their character and their whereabouts. Without a sponsor, these young people will be either placed in foster care, at significant taxpayer expense, or they will be shut up in detention centers.
It is likely that this ‘initiative’ will be challenged in court, given that the Immigration & Nationality Act and international treaties to which the U.S. is a party both restrict the amount of time that children may be detained. However, in the meantime, if you are a sponsor to an unaccompanied, unauthorized minor, the primary objective must be to find a replacement, if you wish to avoid the possibility of the minor being placed in foster care or detention.
Anyone who wishes to be a sponsor can do so as long as they can pass a background check, and it is critical in many cases that the minor children be allowed to thrive in the community.
Undocumented Unaccompanied Minors Must Get a Hearing
The other significant adjustment to law and regulation governing the care of undocumented minors was handed down in early July 2017. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit upheld a Clinton-era ruling which guaranteed unaccompanied minors the right to a bond hearing, as well as to an attorney, and to contest their own detention by studying the evidence in its favor.
While this may seem like the minimum acceptable standard, there is evidence in many unaccompanied minors’ cases of mistreatment or neglect—stories of minors being locked up for an unspecified violation of some law, and simply left to rot for months at a time, with little or no interaction with anyone.
The Ninth Circuit, in their ruling, also cited evidence that some juveniles had been detained long enough to potentially run afoul of regulations regarding the length of time minor children can be kept locked up. Some have suffered psychological effects, and in some cases, have actually agreed to their own removal, sending them back to a country where their life may be in danger, instead of rusticating in a U.S. jail.
It remains to be seen whether the administration will appeal, though they have that right either way, because immigration law is federal, the holding is binding until it is overruled.
Enlist Legal Help Now
With so much going on regarding undocumented unaccompanied minors and their families, it can be difficult to feel safe or ready to react if something happens. Getting in touch with a Chicago deportation defense attorney can help ease your mind. The compassionate attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can sit down with you and help you figure out what to do. Call us today to book a free consultation.
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