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In recent years, the shelters to welcome unaccompanied immigrant minors are not enough, leading to a major immigration crisis.

Although a possible solution for these cases is the petition of relatives to the United States, most of the relatives tend to be undocumented. For this reason, immigrants should first contact our immigration lawyers in New Jersey.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors In The United States

The United States has witnessed a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied immigrant minors in the country. This is because thousands of families try to cross the US southern border to escape the problems of their home country.

  • According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), 84% of unaccompanied children are between the ages of 13 and 17. In addition, 68% of these are usually male. 
  • Most of these children come mainly from Mexico and Central America, but they also usually come from Cuba, Haiti, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela.
  • Although the Central American countries are grouped together, there is an important cultural difference between them. For example, children from Guatemala present the largest number of unaccompanied children in the US.
  • As if that were not enough, within the group of Guatemalan children, a large number of these are indigenous children. As a result, they speak Spanish as their second language or don’t speak it at all.
minor immigrant children in the usa

Since March 2003, ORR has served more than 400,000 unaccompanied children in the US and its value continues to grow exponentially. This is due to the existing humanitarian and economic crises in their countries, such as Venezuela.

What Scenarios Have Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Experienced?

The vast majority of unaccompanied children have been separated from their parents or legal guardians for many years. In addition, they have reported difficulties related to abuse, neglect and gang violence. 

To better understand it, we will break down some of the most common scenarios that children have suffered, both in their country and during their migration to the US.

In The Country Of Origin

While in their home country, the children have been able to experience:

  • Physical injuries.
  • Infections.
  • Diseases.
  • Torture.
  • War.
  • Loss of loved ones.
  • Lack of constant care.
  • Violence.
  • Threats.
  • Forced labor.
  • Lack of medical attention.
  • Lack of housing and other basic needs. For example, food or education.
  • Sexual assault

During Migration

As children follow the migration journey, they may experience traumatic events such as:

  • Kidnapping.
  • Heist.
  • Assault.
  • Intimidation.
  • Detention.
  • Uncertainty about his future.
  • Hunger and thirst.
  • Separation from their relatives.
  • Sexual violence.
  • Travel in dangerous vehicles.
  • Abuse or coercion by the so-called “coyotes”.
  • Harassment or bribery.
  • Exhaustion.

During Reunification With A Sponsor

Once they are in the US and have reunited with their sponsor, minors may suffer from:

  • Fear of deportation or legal participation.
  • Inability to pay attention on the part of the caregiver.
  • Disruptions in attachment.
  • Stress in the caregiver-child relationship.
  • Difficulty in language and communication of the new language.
  • Cultural differences.
  • Possible legal concerns.
  • New expectations, such as daily school attendance.
  • Possible discrimination, teasing, or bullying by other children at school.
  • Not being familiar with school customs or routines.

What Is The Meaning Of Unaccompanied Minor?

U.S. law defines an unaccompanied minor in the United States as one who:

  1. Under 18 years of age.
  2. Lacking legal status.
  3. Not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines unaccompanied minors as those who have been separated from their parents. Furthermore, they are not in the care of an adult responsible by law to care for them.

In conclusion, unaccompanied minors are children fleeing their country of origin to the US with or without the supervision of their parent or legal guardian. As a result, they are at risk of becoming victims of other crimes, such as human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

What Kind Of Symptoms Can Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Suffer?

Minors may witness traumatic events as a side effect of their journey into the US illegally. Among the most common symptoms are:

  • Fear or anxiety.
  • Sadness or bad mood.
  • Nightmares.
  • Nervousness.
  • Lack of desire to play with other children.
  • Disinterest in participating in recreational activities.
  • Unwanted recurring thoughts.
  • Getting upset when events occur that remind you of traumatic events.
  • Difficulty relating to caregivers.
  • Despair.
  • Constant crying.
  • Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  • Headaches.
  • Pains in the body that do not seem to be from a physical cause.
  • Trouble paying attention.
immigrant minors in the us

What Is An Immigrant Child?

The term “immigrant child” refers to all those children under 18 years of age who have at least one immigrant parent. Likewise, the term “immigrant” refers to individuals who reside in the US but were not US citizens at birth.

This term also includes:

how long can we stay in usa with tourist visa

If you wonder “How long can we stay in the US on a tourist visa” we have a blog where we explain this scenario. In the same way, you can also go through our blog on how to legally enter the United States and thus know everything you need to do so.

What About Unaccompanied Immigrant Children?

When unaccompanied immigrant children attempt to cross the border into the US, they will be detained and taken into custody by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Subsequently, they will be transferred to the ORR.

Unaccompanied immigrant children will remain in ORR shelters until they are released to their relatives or sponsors in the country. While in these centers, children will have the right to obtain the following services:

  • Feeding.
  • Medical attention.
  • Entertainment.
  • Education.
  • Legal representation
  • Clothes.
  • Dental care.
  • Ability to communicate with and reunite with family members in the US.

The main problem here is that the federal government has exceeded its attention capacity due to the large number of immigrants arriving at the border seeking asylum. 

If you are looking for info on ther asylum process in the USA or asylum based on domestic violence, you will find information on these topics on our blog.

Rights Of Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

US law establishes that minors in charge of ORR centers have the right to obtain legal representation. Additionally, the vast majority of these children tend to qualify for an immigration benefit.

If they are eligible for a benefit, they may be able to legally remain in the US without fear of deportation. Some of the programs available are:

If you are interested in learning more about the different types of US visas, we have a publication on our blog where we explain each of these visas.

Can A Child Be Deported From The United States?

The short answer is yes. Undocumented immigrant children in the United States can be deported to their country of origin. However, children born in the US cannot be legally deported from the country.

Due to the latter, many families are separated as a result of deportations. For example, if children are born in the US but their parents are illegal immigrants, they are deported but their child will have the right to stay in the US.

Special immigrant juvenile status

In the United States, there are several immigration reliefs focused on protecting immigrants from deportation. You can obtain more information regarding this in our blogs: “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” and “ What is TPS status”.

Problems Affecting Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

In order to understand the difficult situation faced by unaccompanied children in the US, we will now show the most common problems that affect these minors in the country.

They Do Not Have The Right To A Public Defender

Minors should get a lawyer or appear in court without legal representation. This can often be seen at the master calendar hearing.

As a result of this, children have two options:

  1. Pay an immigration attorney, or
  2. Get a Pro Bono attorney. 

If you find yourself faced with this dilemma, do not hesitate to contact our firm. At Curbelo Law, you can find the attorney Carolina T. Curbelo, who has extensive experience of more than 10 years helping aliens in the country.

Our lawyer will be able to help you in the master calendar hearing and the individual hearing in the immigration court or in any other immigration matter that requires legal representation.

They Can Give More Information Than They Should

Unaccompanied immigrant minors often disclose certain details to their doctors, case managers, or other adults when in ORR custody. 

  • Their daily interactions with ORR employees often lead them to reveal past experiences. This can lead to information getting into the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • For these scenarios, it is ideal to have a “firewall” between ORR and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) processing the children. Generally, DHS will decide your requests for relief.
  • If you do not do this, DHS will continue to use the ORR records on the children against you when adjudicating asylum claims in the US.
  • An example of this is the incident involving Kevin Euceda, who was an asylum seeker who was in ORR custody. Despite spending a short time in custody, ORR’s therapeutic notes were used against Kevin.
  • For this reason, Kevin was detained for over three years, until the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, where Kevin was unfortunately found dead. His passing occurred after his deportation from the US.

This story adds to the impact ORR records have as they hold the lives of unaccompanied immigrant children in their hands. If you wonder if you are in removal proceedings check our blog “How to find out if I have a deportation order”.

Inability To Quickly Reunite With Family Members. 

In 2018, both DHS and the Department of Safety and Human Services (HHS) signed a memorandum of agreement. This required agencies to provide information on individuals attempting to reunite with an unaccompanied minor.

  • This action allowed ICE to use the information provided to search for and arrest the possible sponsors, usually relatives of the children. As a result, it created a scenario of uncertainty and fear.
  • This was because the parents and relatives of the unaccompanied children feared that by sponsoring the minor, they could lead to their own arrest and subsequent deportation.
  • In addition, this scenario drastically increased the length of stay of children in ORR custody. 
  • It wasn’t until March 2021 that the Joe Biden administration scrapped much of the sponsors’ disclosure agreement.
cancellation of removal

Suffering a process of deportation is a scenario of great concern for many aliens. However, some may be eligible for some immigration relief. For example, for the cancellation of removal.

Dealing With A Complex Judicial System

Removal proceedings in the US are often confusing and complex for immigrants, especially children. 

  • For example, once the child is released and has arrived in foster care, it is the responsibility of the child to submit the proper paperwork to the court. 
  • Such responsibility applies regardless of the age of the minor. However, they may have legal representation for this scenario. 
  • The documentation to be submitted must inform the court that the child has already moved to a new place. Also, you must file a formal motion to change jurisdiction if the new address will be under a different court.
  • Minors who do not file this report or correctly update their address could be deported in absentia for failure to appear in court.

If you are in removal proceedings, you may be able to qualify for a stay of deportation. Our lawyer will be able to help you in all these matters, including how to appeal an immigration case decision that you already thought was lost.

Absence Of Regulations For The Protection Of Minors In Custody By CBP

Unaccompanied children who are held by CBP are often alone in detention centers and/or jails. These places are often very harsh on children, such as putting them in freezing rooms for interrogation.

For obvious reasons, these sites do not meet the basic constitutional requirements for overcrowded cells, where children, pregnant women, and other adults are held.

Currently, there is little or no oversight to ensure that minors are treated humanely while in CBP custody.

If you came to the US when you were under 16 years of age and are eligible for DACA for the first time, you may be eligible for this immigration benefit. If you obtain it, you will have temporary protection against deportation.

Recommendations When Working With Migrant Children In Humanitarian Situations

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), some key approaches must be followed when working with these minors. Among these recommendations are:

  1. Provide ongoing support to children.
  2. Protect children and provide them with specific needs.
  3. Listen to the children.
  4. Encourage minors and offer them entertainment.
  5. Make room for expression and creativity.
  6. Let children and adolescents take the initiative.
  7. Build on the positive.
  8. Build connections with your family members.
  9. Provide them with information about services, supports, and obligations.
  10. Continuously improvise and adapt to the environment.

In these situations, sensitive topics may be raised. However, it is important that children openly explore topics that are of interest or concern to them.

african minors in the united states

Possible Sensitive Issues To Deal With Children And Adolescents

In general, among the issues that may arise when dealing with unaccompanied immigrant minors, especially adolescents, are:

  • Romantic relationships.
  • Engagement.
  • Marriage.
  • Political, migratory and social issues.
  • Pornography.
  • Masturbation.
  • Sexuality.
  • Personal experiences, such as rape or violence associated with immigration.
  • Sexual identification.
  • Relations.
  • Homosexuality.

Our firm serves all types of immigrants, especially the most discriminated communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, our New Jersey LGBTQ+ immigration lawyer will support you at all times.

How Can We Help Immigrant Children? 

Migrant children are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country, as many have experienced persecution, abuse, or significant trauma. All this is due to the situations they live in their countries of origin or on their trips to the US.

  • Although these immigrant children have traveled to the United States with the goal of a better life, they may encounter a complex and hostile immigration system.
  • As if that were not enough, this system does not offer guidance or advice to follow so that they can handle them on their own. Therefore, it is essential to have legal representation to help them understand each of these processes.
  • By following the legal representation of our lawyer Carolina, the chances of accessing some immigration relief in the US increase significantly.

Therefore, if you or a minor family member is detained in one of the immigration detention centers and you are in danger of being deported from the US, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you with any matter related to unaccompanied immigrant minors. Our firm has helped hundreds of immigrants in all kinds of borderline situations.