Children on the Border: Urgent Action Roundtable
Friday, April 25, 2014
In partnership with Casa Cornelia Law Center, the Trans-Border Institute will convene a closed-door meeting between immigration lawyers, child-welfare advocates, and law enforcement to discuss and design “best practices” for protecting unaccompanied immigrant children from harm. In addition to increased cooperation and information sharing between the parties, the central objective of the roundtable is to facilitate the enhanced screening of children to determine if they have suffered or at risk of suffering: human trafficking; abuse, neglect, or abandonment; torture; and/or other forms of persecution based upon protected categories. The only way to move forward on this issue is to acknowledge the real practices and case histories unfolding on our border every day, to build trust between the responsible parties, and to commit collectively to reform.
The number of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States has surged from a long-term average of 5,000 per year to a projected 60,000 for 2014. The vast majority are from Mexico and Central America. A significant proportion of these children are fleeing violence in their home countries; many have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents; and most are exploited and abused on their way to the United States. The conditions in their home countries, the perils of transit, and their vulnerability in the United States are well-documented. And yet, very few unaccompanied immigrant children apply for asylum or other forms of protection under U.S. immigration law. Most are scared, uninformed, and under extreme pressure to get out of holding cells and detention centers as quickly as possible, even if it means relinquishing rights they never knew they had in the first place. Those that do apply for relief have very limited access to counsel or appropriate social services; and the burden of proof and other legal standards are seldom adjusted to account for the fact that they are children.