Health and Human Services via its ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) office is releasing $9 million in leftover funds for use in legal representation of 1222 (2600 as part of a larger program) of the about 60,000 unaccompanied Central American minors who crossed the southern border since last January. The law does not need that these foreign nationals, here illegally, have legal representation. Almost half of minors with attorneys have been allowed to stay in the country, while only 10 percent of those without representation were allowed to stay, according to an analysis of cases through June by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Of the cases heard from July 18 to September 2 more than 90 percent were marked as instances where the child had no legal representation. The court cases which will decide whether the minors are to be deported or be given refugee or other legal status to stay here. A U.S. District Court Judge has put off on ruling on the core issue of whether these minor plaintiffs are entitled, under the Fifth Amendment, to counsel at government expense. An article at CBS Los Angeles explains:
SANTA ANA (AP) — The Obama administration is spending $4 million on lawyers for unaccompanied immigrant children in deportation proceedings…
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, said on Tuesday that it is the first time the office that oversees programs for unaccompanied immigrant children will provide money for direct legal representation.
The grants to two organizations are part of a bigger $9 million project that aims to provide lawyers to 2,600 children. The move comes after the number of Central American children arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border more than doubled this past year, many of them fleeing violence… Read more here
An article at Politico also explains the case and the legal issues:
The battle over legal counsel for child migrants moved on two fronts as a federal judge first weighed-in Monday and the Department of Health and Human Services next announced its own initiative Tuesday to try to assure more representation for the minors.
With the 2014 fiscal year literally hours away from ending, HHS said Tuesday it has committed $4.2 million in leftover funds to support the efforts to secure counsel for the children. Republicans in the House have blocked prior efforts by the Justice Department to use its own funds for this purpose. But HHS said it has sufficient authority to make the awards to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
HHS estimated that the funds are sufficient to provide legal representation for about 1222 children, with an initial focus on eight cities including Los Angeles, Houston, and Phoenix. That’s a fraction of the total number of minors in the immigration court system after the record border crossings earlier this year. But the step is significant and comes as migrant rights attorneys are trying to elevate the same issue in federal court in Seattle… Read more here
Some argue that refugee status may apply if the minors face violence back home due to their membership in a particular social group, e.g. those who will not join drug gangs. The 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as any person who:
“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
The United States Refugee Act of 1980 defines a refugee as any person who is:
…outside their country of residence or nationality, or without nationality, and is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
In fact, a new White House plan would allow some Central American children to come to the United States legally with refugee status, according to an AP article. The plan would allow Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants who are legally present in the U.S. to ask for refugee status for child relatives still back at home. Also, the White House is calling for the admission of 70,000 refugees in fiscal year 2015, and lists people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as eligible for admission to the U.S. as refugees “if otherwise qualified.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is initiating a program to give refugee status to some young people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Under the program, immigrants from those countries who are lawfully in the United States will be able to request that child relatives still in those three countries be resettled in the United States as refugees. The program would establish in-country processing to screen the young people to determine if they qualify to join relatives in the U.S…
The program would not provide a path for minors to join relatives illegally in the United States, and would not apply to minors who have entered the country illegally.
Instead, it aims to set up an orderly alternative for dealing with young people who otherwise might embark on a dangerous journey to join their families in the United States… Read more here