Posts Tagged ‘gang-violence’

More Immigration Reform Questions

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform leaves many searching for answers to this complicated and controversial topic.

Put your questions in context:  Read this second in a series of El Diario editorials.

Deferred Action Intake Session-48_editChildren Looking for a Chance at a New Life

By C. Mario Russell

For El Diario

For many months, now, we have seen the pictures and read the stories of the thousands of children fleeing gang violence, severe poverty, and persecution in Central America. After a long and dangerous journey to the border, many are resettling with a relative in the New York area, each looking for a chance at a new life.

But to keep this chance alive, they must present themselves before immigration judges who have been assigned to decide their cases, whether they are 7 or 17 years old. This can be an overwhelming and sometimes scary experience for children; a long and confusing process for parents.  And while each child’s case and situation is unique, in this installment I will present a few, basic points about procedure and law that may help families manage expectations:

Going to court is important, even if without a lawyer. Judges will give new appointments to allow children time to find a lawyer. The may enter an order of deportation if no one appears.

A responsible adult should accompany the child to court. Some adults say they are afraid to go because they are undocumented themselves or because they have an old deportation order. In such a case they should contact the Catholic Charities Children’s Call Center at 1-888-996-3848 for the latest information about enforcement policies or for when to attend a live Legal Orientation Presentation.

Judges will not decide the child’s case at the first court appointment. Most cases will take months to prepare and to be decided.

Develop a strong defense. While the process will demand patience it also will be an opportunity to present as full a legal defense against deportation as possible. There are several common defenses. Some children will qualify for asylum, which means proving that they suffered or will suffer persecution if returned to their home country. While not all cases of violence or deprivation qualify for asylum, some victims of gang violence have been able to succeed in their asylum case.

Some children may be eligible for special immigrant juvenile status. This is available to unmarried children under 21 who were abandoned or abused by at least one parent. Children who are living with one parent or have a guardian in the United States may therefore be eligible under this law.

Children who were victims of a crime in the United States may gain status under the “U Visa.” To qualify, the person must have suffered physical or mental abuse because of criminal activity and must have cooperated with law enforcement. Consider how many children were victimized by their smugglers in the United States… Similarly, victims of human trafficking may qualify for “T Visa” status if they were brought illegally to the United States to engage in sex work or in other forms of labor or servitude against their will.

Finally, every parent, custodian and child must know that any child in the United States, regardless of legal status, has a right to public elementary and secondary education, and, in New York State, to certain basic medical care coverage, called Child Health Plus (CHP). (Call the New York State Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 for further information).

Ensuring that these new young immigrants are healthy and in school is as important as making sure that they are guided well in their court proceedings. This is what gives them a real chance at a new life and makes possible all of their promise.

Mario Russell is Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane, NY, NY 10038; he also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.

Read the full El Diario story in Spanish.

Expedited Immigration Hearings in NYC for Minors

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

A federal immigration court in Manhattan that usually deals with fewer than 100 new children’s cases a month is getting a lot busier, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Twenty-nine minors who entered the country unaccompanied by adults appeared Wednesday before Judge James Loprest, Jr., some with attorneys, others with family by their sides. Six-year-old Gabriela and her brother Brandon Lopez, 15, were among the minors hoping to be allowed to legally stay with family already living in the U.S.

The siblings participated in the first day of surge docket hearings at federal immigration court. The “surge docket” is an initiative by the federal government to help expedite the legal process for the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been processed into the system since October.

The minors are fleeing poverty, gang-violence and death, say advocates from the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

AILA is one of five groups handling unaccompanied minor cases. The others are the Legal Aid Society and nonprofits Catholic Charities, Safe Passage, and The Door. The groups have been preparing for a surge in cases since they learned 3, 347 unaccompanied minors had arrived in the state since January. New York is second to Texas with the most cases.

Gabriela and Brandon needed to leave their home country to get away from extortionists, said their father, 35-year-old Emerson Lopez.

“I began to hear rumors that they were going start charging rent for each head,” Lopez said, referring to his children.

“In my home country, they call them ‘heads.’ They treat people as if they are cattle, and that’s when my wife and I made the decision to send for them,” he said.

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

Find out more about the help Catholic Charities provides in the Latin Post.