Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. El Salvador and Guatemala, together with Honduras, form the deadly Central American “Northern Triangle.” The three Northern Triangle countries land in the top five murder rates of the world.
Gang and cartel violence, widespread corruption, drugs, and a conscious disregard for human life have caused tens of thousands of people to flee the Northern Triangle and make their way to the U.S. to seek asylum, as is their right.
Amongst these fleeing refugees having to make the perilous 2,000+ mile journey to the U.S. are unaccompanied minors. These children arrive in the U.S. to a clogged and disadvantageous Immigration Court system. They face removal proceedings, or deportation proceedings, by themselves against an experienced government attorney. From 2012 – 2014, there was a huge influx of unaccompanied minors who arrived at our border, about 90% of them coming from the Northern Triangle.
Syracuse University conducted a study of outcomes of Immigration Court cases involving unaccompanied minors at our Southern Border from 2012 – 2014. At the end of the time period, there were about 60,000 cases pending nationwide before the Immigration Court. To the children’s disadvantage, an attorney does not represent over two-thirds of the children involved in these cases.
The huge correlation between being represented by an attorney and not being deported was eye-opening:
- 80% of children without an attorney were deported, and another 5% took a voluntary departure
- In contrast, only 12% of children with an attorney were deported, with another 15% taking a voluntary departure.
Even in light of such overwhelming statistics, to this day, unrepresented children are still in danger of being sent back to violence, trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, or worse, death.
The need for legal representation for unaccompanied minors at our border is clear. These young immigrants do have not have knowledge of our complex immigration system, do not know English, are many times uneducated, and can come from traumatic backgrounds. An immigration attorney knows how to communicate a claim for asylum to a judge; a child does not.
Nevertheless, in a deposition related to a complaint filed against the U.S. Government, demanding that tax-funded attorneys be assigned to every unaccompanied minor’s case in Immigration Court, Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil twice stated “I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law. You can do a fair hearing.” The shocking comments have helped bring this issue to light, and they raise a red flag about the government’s handling of these cases.
Immigration advocacy groups and organizations are battling to give unaccompanied children the right to legal representation. There is a need to educate the public and the government, including Mr. Weil, about why the children are coming and why they need representation. Even current and former government officials have blasted Weil’s statements, going so far as to call them “stupid.”
For more information about the unaccompanied Central American minors and how to help them, please visit the links below: