Posts Tagged ‘American Immigration Lawyers Association’

Attorneys Jump In to Help Children in Immigration Court

Friday, September 5th, 2014

By Tania Karas
New York Law Journal

Alberth, a shy 10-year-old who made his way alone from his native El Salvador to the United States, appeared last week in a tiny Manhattan courtroom thousands of miles from his homeland.

Apprehended at the southwestern border, the dark-haired, freckled boy was sent to New York to be reunited with his mother. Alberth was one of 36 children appearing at Immigration Court as part of a “rocket docket” to expedite deportations of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have entered the United States illegally in the past year.

Immigration Judge Virna Wright asked Alberth through a Spanish-language interpreter whether he was enrolled to start school. And was he excited?

Alberth only nodded.

Wright then turned to the boy’s mother, who was seated beside him, and asked if they had an attorney.

‘Not yet,’ she said…

The Door, along with four other legal services providers—the Legal Aid Society, Catholic Charities Community Services, the Safe Passage Project at New York Law School and the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association—has volunteered daily since Aug. 13 to guide the influx of children, along with their adult sponsors, through their first court appearances…

Volunteer lawyers said many of the children have suffered domestic abuse, gang violence, abject poverty and human trafficking in their native countries.

At least 4,200 have been sent to New York since January, according to ORR data. More than half are in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Those without family are sent to shelters, such as The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry and Lincoln Hall Boys’ Haven in Somers.

Rocket docket sessions start at 9 a.m. with a “Know Your Rights” presentation in Spanish by Elvis Garcia Callejas, a case manager for Catholic Charities’ unaccompanied minors program.

Children and their sponsors fill the court’s 12th floor pro bono room. Some of the boys sport suits and ties, and some girls wear flowered dresses. A few teenage girls hold babies in their laps. They seek legal status for themselves and their own children.

Everyone clutches folders with their names and “alien number” scrawled across the front.

Adults take notes as Garcia Callejas writes a list of “los remedios legales” on a whiteboard. Based on their situations, the children may qualify for special immigrant juvenile status, asylum or visas for victims of serious crimes or trafficking.

‘It’s very important to come to court. Because if you don’t, the judge can order your deportation,’Garcia Callejas told his audience last week…

Catholic Charities recently received a “substantial” grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to hire attorneys, paralegals and support staff, said Mario Russell, director of Catholic Charities’ Immigrant and Refugee Services division. Catholic Charities focuses on children living in or just released from temporary shelters.

With the new hires, it expects to handle 300 to 600 such cases and host “Know Your Rights” trainings at 16 shelters in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island.
“Our plan is to take as many of these as we can,” Russell said. “Specifically we’re looking to partner with nonprofits who have worked on these issues. We expect each case to take 12 to 36 months.”

Read the full story online

In Court, Immigrant Children Moved to Head of the Line

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Yovany’s first opportunity to face the United States justice system came late on Thursday morning, more than a month after his journey from Guatemala ended in an American detention center near the Southwest border, reports Kirk Semple in The New York Times on August 14, 2014…

Yovany was among 55 children who have come before the judge this week as part of a new accelerated court process, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America…

Before the surge of unaccompanied minors became a crisis for the Obama administration, the immigration courts in New York, among the nation’s busiest, held four special juvenile dockets every month for children facing deportation. In coordination with court officials, a coalition of groups — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Charities Community Services, Legal Aid, Safe Passage Project and the Door — provided screening and free legal representation to the children…

Immigrants’ advocates in New York learned only at the end of July that the Justice Department had scheduled the new juvenile dockets starting this week. The groups, already overstretched, rushed to develop a plan of action…

The special dockets unfolded this week on the 12th floor of 26 Federal Plaza, a hulking federal office building near City Hall. The children, most accompanied by relatives, began to gather in the hallway outside Courtroom 31 by 8 a.m., an hour before the hearings were to begin…

On both days, Elvis Garcia Callejas, a representative from Catholic Charities, used a white board to present the families with a primer, in Spanish, on how the court works and on possible avenues of relief they might pursue to avoid a deportation order.

Most of the defendants appeared to be teenagers, although there were children as young as 4. Two young sisters wore matching striped dresses.

“The judge is not going to rule today,” Mr. Garcia Callejas clarified…

Justice Department officials said they had a mandate to ensure that children went before an immigration judge within 21 days of being placed in deportation proceedings. They plan to hold the special dockets as often as necessary to reach that goal.

Read the full story in The New York Times.