As the Central American Kids Flooding Texas Get Younger, Lawyers Struggle to Help Them

Categories: Immigration

ChildImmigrationCourt.png
Dan Shouse
Kids going to trial in immigration court are getting increasingly younger, say human rights lawyers across the country. Here, a child at an immigration rally in Arizona.
A few months ago, just south of the Texas-Mexico border, a 17-year-old girl was cautiously making her way to the Rio Grande river and the American desert beyond. In her arms she carried her 1-year-old daughter. The two made it across, but, like most of the South American women and children flooding across the border of late, they didn't get very far before being picked up by Border Patrol. They didn't intend to.

The young mother quickly had her information taken down by immigration officials, and was surprised to learn that they compiled a separate file for her baby. Six months later, that little girl has a charging document, complete with a photograph and fingerprints, in the Texas judicial system. At just 18 months old, she awaits her court date in Dallas.

Such is the strange legal world surrounding the immigration process for unaccompanied children, especially the kids grade-school age and younger. As we've reported recently, the United States, with immigration from Mexico slowing, is seeing a surge of unaccompanied child migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where poverty and gang violence is sending young people fleeing north. Most are arriving in Texas, and many of the children come with children of their own.

The young mom has legal relief, under a provision for kids whose parents have either abandoned them or died. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyers will likely use their so-called "prosecutorial discretion" to drop the baby's case. Nonetheless, both will wade into the slow and messy labyrinth of the United States immigration legal system.

Melissa Weaver, an attorney for the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, handles these kinds of cases. When a child arrives and can't be placed with family, she is sent to a shelter in Fort Worth that is contracted out by the federal Office of Refugees and Resettlement. Once they arrive, Weaver says, Human Rights Initiative receives a referral. Weaver, who handles kids' cases for the group, meets with the child, tries to determine if she has a legal case to stay in the United States and, if so, goes about defending her in court.

The younger the child, the harder it is to extract her personal narrative, Weaver says. Weaver has two small children of her own, which is perhaps why she's so good at getting her clients talking. It's no easy task. Some are barely learning to speak in Spanish and don't speak a word of English. Between translating legal jargon to child-friendly language, and doing so in a different language, it's a daunting task just to explain the legal process, let alone wade into it.

And immigration legal professionals across the country are reporting increasingly younger kids. Stacy Jones, an attorney for the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which places pro bono lawyers, says she is seeing more and more kids whose ages are in the single digits.

"About once a week I go through the [client] referrals, and we can definitely tell that they're younger. It used to be mostly 16- and 17-year-olds, but more recently I've been seeing 8-, 9-, 12-year-olds." Jones says. Boys generally make up the bulk of unaccompanied children, but recently Jones has seen a spike in unaccompanied girls. She's unsure why.

Whatever their gender, they need lawyers, and the recent surge underscores the pressing need for non-immigration lawyers willing to work for free, Jones says. As immigration courts do not have public defenders available, immigrant kids often rely on volunteer attorneys to handle their cases. Therein lies the challenge in finding a miracle attorney who will be able to use child-friendly language, cultivate a trusting relationship, learn a child's case history and have a bit of Spanish language skills -- all to brave a legal system that's disorganized, overburdened and sometimes hostile.

"It's tough. You need to get their whole story," Jones says. "The younger a child is, the less able they are to articulate what happened to them or why they came to the U.S., and the younger they are, they're likely not traveling with a ton of documents. Obviously when you're representing a child you try to to build a relationship and trust with them. ... All of these kids have gone through terribly traumatic situations, and you need to build this relationship to be able to talk about very troubling things."

Weaver tells me about one little girl, 5, from Honduras. "Her aunt took her all the way to the border and then was like, OK, start running toward the border and someone will catch you," Weaver says. "That was their big plan. ... It's very dangerous."

Another of Weaver's young clients, a 6-year-old girl, was picked up by Border Patrol and was eventually transferred to the Fort Worth shelter. Weaver set about interviewing the girl, trying to learn as much as possible about her background in Central America, where kids increasingly face family violence, sexual predators and drug-related gang violence. But the interview was going nowhere, and without the girl's story Weaver would have little case to make. Then, there was a breakthrough.

"We started asking questions about if anyone drank in the house, because you know, even pretty young kids pick up that," says Weaver, who eventually reunited the girl with family in another state. "Toward the end we just happened to ask the one question that triggered this whole telling of a story. And that changed everything."

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72 comments
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Such a bunch of pathetic, panicking, puss-ants on this board.  The usual suspects have the sky falling because some poor women and children have crossed the border.  Imagine grown men being terrified, fearing that immigrant babies are running rampant across the US, destroying our nation.  It's disgusting.  Ruddski the duddski leads this cadre of bottom-feeders with hysterical outbursts like this one:


"Our borders are being over-run, the Mideast is falling to Islamist radicalism, the DoJ and IRS are rogue, prices are at record highs, Russia and China annex what they want with no fear of reprisal."


You people have every reason to be ashamed of yourselves.


davej.francis
davej.francis

JOIN THE RAPIDLY RISING TEA PARTY AND FIGHT AGAINST “OBAMA’S SPITING ON THE “RULE OF LAW” AND NOT ENFORCING IMMIGRATION LAWS?

If you are outraged with Obama running the country on his own terms then do something about it. Unite with the National Tea Party—the one group of hardworking Americans who passionately love this sovereign country and will do anything to save it from a socialist quagmire. The TEA PARTY of average citizens has the ability to put intense pressure on Congress and our lawmakers and revolve their opinion... but only with your assistance. Let's flood them with letters, faxes, emails and phone calls protest, rallies and appearing in political offices. We can create an avalanche of support with your aid and strategically place our people in DC to fight for our cause. Americans are growing very agitated and angrier every day that President Obama has desecrated the office of the President of the United States.

Do you want us to keep fighting for what our Founding Fathers believed in which is for the Constitution they set forth...for our freedom, liberty and justice? If you believe in America then believe in the Tea Party and support our efforts. We count on America's grassroots to support our vast efforts. His latest suicide action for the Democrats, is a willingness to flood our nation with minors, of all ages and most unaccompanied by parents. The main magnet is jobs, but if “IF” employers were held accountable with prison without parole, things would be amazingly different? Then rather than E-Verify a national mandated, digital ID card would END illegal immigration on a vast scale. THAT’S WHY NOT STOPPING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS A CONSPIRACY, AS NOTHING IS EVER DONE? It’s an ongoing financial nightmare for taxpayers with millions still jobless and unable to put food on their table.

Right now there is chaos on the border as over 20,000 and potential more have entered the United States and not seeking to hide from the U.S. Border Patrol, but actively waiting to get caught. THANKS TO OBAMA AND HIS INCOMPETENT IDIOTS WHO NEED A BRAIN SCAN, THE INVASION IS NOT STOPPING OWING TO THE CLARION BLASTED SIGNAL AROUND THE WORLD, THAT NOBODY WILL BE TURNED AWAY, UNDER KING OBAMAS EDICT. With thousands of children coming without supervision, including pregnant women who well aware under the law that once they enter American jurisdiction, that unfortunately taxpayers will cover the hospital fees and that a child born in the US, get automatic citizenship. Additionally the parents of these offspring are part of the plot, to thrust their children around immigration law, specifically chain migration.

 The big mouth of Obama has “orchestrated” this immigration mess with no end in sight. Already the welfare safety-net is already overwhelmed by millions of citizens; millions of freeloaders already leeching because of the lax system and thousands more collecting food stamps, Medicaid, and many programs which are handed out to foreign nationals without any checking. Anything to undermine Congress mandates is Obama’s illicit game, even in releasing 36.000 of criminal aliens on America’s streets, with no consideration that many were murderers.

We need people in Congress who are not going to sell out or to bow down to Special Interests, to corporate cronies or the big trade unions, playing the same old continuous record of the Republican elite. All you have to do is don’t vote Democrat; don’t vote Republican; when you go to the ballot box make your decision on who will balance the federal and state budgets, Remove the Affordable Care Act, If you want change: removal of illegal aliens; Abolishment of the IRS; introduce a fair or consumption tax, reduction in government itself; Returning the Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency to State control. Building the Keystone pipeline and making America self-sufficient in Energy and not dependent on foreign oil, gas. Reduce to a minimum of Regulations for growing businesses. Make corporate welfare a thing of the past. Use the Tea Party agenda of Ron Paul, The One Cent Solution is beautifully simple: If the government cuts one cent out of every dollar of its total spending (excluding interest payments) each year for five years, and then caps overall federal spending at 18 percent of national income from then on, we can: Reduce federal spending by $7.5 trillion over 10 years. Balance the budget by 2019.

BOTH PARTIES HAVE NOTIFIED THE PUBLIC THAT RINO ERIC CANTOR BEING OUSTED FROM CONGRESS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ILLEGAL ALIEN INVASION? PROVE THEM WRONG BY VOTING FOR CANDIDATES WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE TEA PARTY.

These are issues the TEA PARTY has in mind and will guarantee if they climb into the front seat of the Senate and House in DC. THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT AND THE DEMOCRATS HAVE THEIR OWN AGENDA; NOT THE PEOPLES AGENDA. JOIN THE NATIONAL TEA PARTY.ORG OR YOUR LOCAL AFFILIATE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND FIGHT FOR AMERICA?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Our borders are being over-run, the Mideast is falling to Islamist radicalism, the DoJ and IRS are rogue, prices are at record highs, Russia and China annex what they want with no fear of reprisal.

Obama goes golfing.

James080
James080

How can the US Congress possibly consider immigration reform when illegal aliens are swarming across the border virtually unchecked, apprehended immediately, given court summonses months or years out, then released into the population? Of course the extreme wings of both political parties are happy with the status quo...the right wingers get a fresh supply of dirt cheap labor, and the left wing gets a wave of entitlement dependent (future) voters.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Hi from the beach. I see you are doing fine. Back to streaming the world cup to my phone on the beach while drinking a beer

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The people who are hating on immigrants had no problem with them when war criminal Bush and his war-mongering administration sent thousands of immigrants and their children off to be killed or maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bvckvs

My concern is for those struggling lawyers trying heroically to shoulder the burden placed on them by a rogue, lawless mis-administration.

dingo
dingo

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

Meanwhile Myrna waits eagerly for her entitlement check as she castigates those concerned about the irresponsible and surely unfounded rumor that the magical unlimited federal money tree might just be a fiction after all.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

That's about the worst argument for unchecked mass immigration. Ever.

But, you don't even have to make a case, whoever can get across the border in the next couple years is good to go. This may go down as one the administration's great successes.

bippyizod
bippyizod

@davej.francis  Yes, join us this August for our Million Hick March on Warshingtun DC where we will raise tarnation fer our nation.  Don't let the nation ferget that he aint from here cuz he is a Muzlin and thus a doer of evil.  Heck, libtards don't even believe that Jesus done died on the cross in order to get rid of teh gays, mesicans, and abortin' women.


Remember to hate what you don't know and base all your opinions of fear. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@James080

What you are witnessing is "immigration reform".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@James080

Well, as long as everyone gets something they want, that seems fair.

Who's hungry for Guatemalan food, tonite?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

I wonder how Jose would feel about Obama honoring his sacrifice by surrendering to the people who killed him.

dingo
dingo

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

'hating on immigrants'

This is about hating on the rule of law.

If the Central American region had a vigorous respect for the rule of law instead of the shit hole, oppressive corruption you will find down there you would find a reverse mass migration in effect.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Hitler used to use inflammatory, inaccurate propaganda a lot.

James080
James080

@bvckvs 

I wouldn't expect you of all people to understand, but until the US is capable, and willing, to secure it's borders, there is not point in reforming immigration laws. Of course, all you see is a flood of future democrat voters, why should you care about border security?.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk  ME! ME!


  • Tapado, seafood soup with green plantain slices
  • Chiles rellenos, bell peppers stuffed with meat and vegetables, covered in whipped egg whites and fried
  • Gallo en chicha, rooster stew
  • Pepián de indio (19th century recipe), meat and vegetable stew in a thick recado sauce
  • Subanik, meat and vegetable stew in spicy sauce 
  • Kak'ik, turkey soup with "ik" (a spicy chili from Cobán often eaten on New Year's Day)
  • Caldo de res or cocido, beef and vegetable soup
  • Caldo de gallina, hen soup
  • Jocón, chicken stewed in a green sauce
  • Hilachas, shredded beef meat in a red sauce
  • Güicoyitos rellenos, stuffed zucchini
  • Pollo a la cerveza, chicken in a beer sauce
  • Pollo guisado, Spanish chicken stew
  • Carne guisada, meat stew
  • Chuletas fascinante - "Fascinating Chops", a breaded pan-fried pork chop
  • Ensalada en escabeche, picked vegetable salad
  • Pollo encebollado, chicken in an onion-based sauce
  • Estofado, beef, potato and carrot stew
  • Revolcado, tomato-based stew with spices and cow’s underbelly
  • Pollo en crema, chicken in cream-based sauce
  • Carne adobada, marinated preserved beef
  • Pulique, yet another kind of meat and vegetable stew
  • Mole de platanos, fried plantain slices in a chocolate-based sauce (not a sweet dish)

Big Kitty's licking her chops! 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Well we caught a sting ray and some baby sharks, but no illegals

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Atheists probably thank Obama.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

He'd lose, just like Hitler.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Hitler, like Obama, abrogated laws to further his ideology. You, like many many Nazis cheered Hitler on, likewise cheer Obama on as he creates crisis after crisis.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

What, suddenly you don't like Nazi/Hitler references? Your bread and butter no longer palatable?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Those immigrants you cite were legal.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Obama, like Hitler, can't be sued.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Everyone on Earth is a human being, is everyone on earth a US citizen as well?

Every nation has strict immigration laws, would you want those laws suspended for your favored groups?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Funny how kooks stick together.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@TheRuddSki Is well US a everyone being on, as a is Earth earth citizen everyone human?




Hee hee.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Nazis liked to hit the sauce early too.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk

All fingers are not thumbs, even though propagandists keep isnsisting they are.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

You, for one, seem to think shopping and shoplifting are the same thing.

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