Immigrant Children Being Used as Leverage
February 21, 2019
On January 18th a class action lawsuit was filed against the Trump Administration, claiming that underage detained immigrants are being used to lure their sponsors. The suit alleges that these children are used as leverage; once immigrant sponsors come forward, they are arrested. The immigration advocates believe that the Administration is doing this to deter immigrants from entering this country.
There are over 10,000 unaccompanied immigrant children affected by the circumstances explained in the lawsuit. It states that after leaving their home countries to escape persecution and violence, the children languish in shelters while separated from family members.
A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed last April between The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In short, this agreement orders ORR to give sponsor information like addresses and fingerprints to ICE.
The legal director of the immigrant advocacy program at the Legal Aid Justice Center is concerned for these immigrant children, many of whom have friends and family ready to take them in. He feels that ORR is now policing these immigrants, rather than protecting them.
The deputy legal director from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project described another, leaked government memo that confirms the policy, along with zero tolerance, are being executed. Advocates say that these policies are keeping these families from being reunited.
The lawsuit cites different examples of this treatment. In one, a detained Guatemalan teenager was separated from his father, who had applied through ORR for sponsorship. Instead, the father’s fingerprints were used to deport him. The teenager attempted suicide after four months of detainment and transfer to a high-security facility.
Another story describes an 11-year old who has been waiting at a shelter for close to six months. A 15-year old girl was detained from April 2018 to September 2018, and her sister, her main caregiver, has been unable to get her out.
Other tales tell of sponsors submitting photo identification, submitting to home investigations, and one child at a center who was flown out on a plane in the middle of the night.
As of November, there were nearly 14,000 immigrant children detained in shelters. The average stay time was about 2 months.
The Sponsorship Process
According to the lawsuit, sponsors that want to welcome these immigrant children into their homes are confronted with a complicated process. There are no set timelines or clear procedures, and final decisions rest upon case managers who can deny applications without concrete reasons.
When the MOA was signed, it imposed further restrictions on sponsors and added more red tape. Advocates feel that this has also led to less sponsors offering to help.
Philadelphia Immigration Attorneys at the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. Can Help with Detained Immigrants
If you or someone you care for is a victim of immigration discrimination, contact a compassionate, skilled Philadelphia immigration attorney at the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. We provide legal guidance for families dealing with all immigration issues. Call 215-496-0690 or complete an online form. Our office is in Philadelphia, and we represent clients in Pennsylvania, the tri-state area, New Jersey, and nationally.