WBEZ | unaccompanied minors http://www.wbez.org/tags/unaccompanied-minors Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Lawyers fear speedy deportations harm minors http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rocket docket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawyers who work with unaccompanied, illegal child migrants in Chicago are raising the alarm over new fast-track deportations, saying the process may result in a denial of due process in court. Referring to the expedited schedulings as the &ldquo;rocket docket,&rdquo; many fear that children may be scheduled for court hearings so quickly that they may not have time to find lawyers, or if they do, their lawyers will not have enough time to craft a defense case. Ultimately, this could result in more children returning to the dangerous environments that they&rsquo;d fled.</p><p>&ldquo;We somehow got notice of hearings that they had been scheduled to attend in Chicago on a Monday, and this was on a Thursday or Friday when they contacted us, &rdquo; said Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center. &ldquo;We thought it was a fluke or a glitch in the system.&rdquo;</p><p>The NIJC helps thousands of immigrant children that pass through federal shelters in Chicago. Koop said kids who arrived in the Spring originally had seven or eight months between the time the Department of Homeland Security filed a Notice to Appear in Chicago&rsquo;s immigration court, and the &ldquo;master calendar hearing,&rdquo; which signals the opening of removal proceedings against an immigrant. But those hearings have suddenly been moved up several months, to August.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a lot of time to secure an attorney, begin to develop case theory, start to strategize about how this case ought to be prepared and presented moving forward,&rdquo; said Koop.</p><p>In fact, Koop said scores of children whose master calendar hearings were moved up had not even received notice of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;We very quickly learned a lot of the children weren&rsquo;t aware they had these hearings,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;either because the notices hadn&rsquo;t reached them yet or because the notices had been sent to an incorrect address.&rdquo;</p><p>The address discrepancies were likely because the child had been reunited with family elsewhere in the country shortly after the Notice to Appear had been filed in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve really shifted gears and our whole staff is just calling all of these kids that are on dockets, and trying to figure out where they are, and letting them know they have court,&rdquo; she said. Koop said NIJC attorneys have been getting permission from the children to move to change venue for the children&rsquo;s cases. On one day earlier this month, they filed 200 motions for change of venue on behalf of kids that once, but no longer, were sheltered in Chicago.</p><p>The U.S. is dealing with record numbers of unaccompanied children coming across the Southwest border. In the ten months leading up to August, nearly <a href="http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/SWB%20Family%20and%20UAC%20Apps%20through%20July.pdf">63,000</a> were caught. More than three-quarters come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Koop said nearly 60 percent of the children that the NIJC screens in Chicago shelters are eligible for asylum, or some other form of protection against removal.</p><p>&ldquo;Our concern is that there is a compromise of due process when they&rsquo;re required to press forward with a case before they&rsquo;re able to fully prepare it, before they&rsquo;re able to have any opportunity to recover from whatever trauma or negative experience gave rise to the need for them to flee,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Attorneys who work with unaccompanied minors say trauma, and deep emotional distress, is common among child migrants. Alex, a 17-year old Salvadorian who fled his home two years ago to avoid recruitment to a gang, is one example. Because he fears reprisals against his family, WBEZ is not using his full name.</p><p>&ldquo;I had been jumped on three occasions and I didn&rsquo;t feel safe. I wanted to move... from my home to another place, but I didn&rsquo;t know where to go,&rdquo; said Alex. &ldquo;My country is small and the gangs are everywhere. My dad had also become afraid that they might kill me, or something. He said maybe the best way for me to get away from them would be to come to the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Alex&rsquo;s father arranged for him to take buses and cars with strangers from El Salvador, through Guatemala, into Mexico, and ultimately across the U.S. border. He made the journey with dozens of others. But after days walking and sleeping in the desert, they were caught by border patrol.</p><p>Alex was taken to a children&rsquo;s shelter in Houston, where lawyers tried to start working on his case. But he fell into a deep depression.</p><p>&ldquo;When I had those problems, I didn&rsquo;t want to talk to anyone,&rdquo; Alex said. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to leave my room. I just stayed in bed.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawyers couldn&rsquo;t help Alex in that condition, so they transferred him to a mental health treatment center for nine months. Ultimately, Alex recovered and won asylum. He&rsquo;s 17 now, and lives with family in Chicago.</p><p>Without that time to recover, Alex said he wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to help his lawyer understand why returning home would be dangerous. Under the new docket system, he likely would have been sent back. That&rsquo;s what lawyers fear will happen now to other children.</p><p>The Department of Justice&rsquo;s Executive Office for Immigration Review confirmed that it&rsquo;s prioritizing children&rsquo;s removal cases, but denied that it compromises due process. In an email to WBEZ, a spokeperson wrote &ldquo;...the immigration judge ensures that the individual understands the alleged immigration law violations. The judge also provides information on available free or low-cost legal representation resources in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>But lawyers who help migrant children say that&rsquo;s not enough. It often takes several months for children to schedule a legal screening and to secure an attorney who&rsquo;s willing to take the case for free. Experts who work with the children say they hope immigration judges across the country will grant children continuances in their cases, to allow them extra time to find counsel. But even that may not be enough.</p><p>&ldquo;The rubber&rsquo;s really going to meet the road when the children show up after these several weeks of their continuance, and what the judge does if the child does not have an attorney,&rdquo; said Megan McKenna of Kids in Need of Defense, a New York-based nonprofit that helps migrant children find pro bono attorneys across the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re going to be seeing is 70-90 percent of these children will not be represented in their deportation proceedings,&rdquo; McKenna added, &ldquo;and that can mean children being sent back to situations of harm, and this is the harm they fled.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Vocalo&rsquo;s <a href="https://twitter.com/NorthsideLou">Luis Antonio Perez</a> contributed translation for this story.<br />Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 Refugee youth services threatened http://www.wbez.org/news/refugee-youth-services-threatened-110656 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Refugee kids (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>As families prepare for a new school year, some of the most vulnerable kids and parents may have to go it alone. Refugee assistance programs in Illinois are set to lose a federal grant that helps K-12 students transition to life in the U.S., and that supports critical resources for teachers and refugee parents.</p><p>&ldquo;This program will pretty much shut down as of August 14 of 2014,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. The organizations youth program provides after-school tutoring and social gatherings for roughly 250 refugee children every weekday during the school year, as well as weekend, in-home tutoring for refugee children who often come to the U.S. with little to no English skill, and often below grade level.</p><p>Additionally, the program&rsquo;s case workers are critical to enrolling children in schools when families first arrive, as many refugee parents are unable to fill out the paperwork themselves, and rarely understand what type of documentation they are required to bring to register their children.</p><p>&ldquo;Many of the parents that we are serving haven&rsquo;t really had the opportunity to deal with any formal school systems,&rdquo; explained Kano. &ldquo;So they depend on us to help them and orient them.&rdquo;</p><p>But this year, Kano and those who work with other refugee assistance programs in Illinois, are fretting over whether they&rsquo;ll have money to continue supporting kids and their families through the school year. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement largely funds refugee services, and has recently warned assistance organizations that money is getting tight &mdash; because it also is responsible for the care and shelter of unaccompanied children who are caught illegally migrating to the U.S. The number of children detained since June of 2013 has surged, prompting the ORR to divert money that was earmarked for refugees to deal with the situation.</p><p>Since <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594">WBEZ last reported on this</a>, ORR has announced that it will restore funding to some core services. However, discretionary grants that pay for K-12 support, senior services and preventative health programs remain in jeopardy. In Illinois, youth services received $711,729 last fiscal year.</p><p>Kano said ORR money makes up about 80 percent of the budget for RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program. If that money is not renewed, she said she&rsquo;ll be left with less than one full-time employee to handle K-12 services. She said that means newly-arrived refugee families wouldn&rsquo;t receive the basic education that her organization promotes.</p><p>&ldquo;Something as simple as you have to dress your kids properly for school and you have to feed them breakfast before they go to school,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;because otherwise the teacher is going to notice that your child is not well taken care of, and they might call the Department of Child and Family Services for neglect.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said extreme examples like that are rare, but they could happen more often without the support and intervention of RefugeeONE&rsquo;s case workers. More common are everyday household issues that refugee parents run into, often because they don&rsquo;t know how to support their kids in a new environment.<br /><br />&ldquo;I had a problem with my son,&rdquo; said Amal Khalid, a refugee who arrived from Sudan with her three children last year. &ldquo;My son (didn&rsquo;t) listen to me, and he (didn&rsquo;t) do his homework, and everything. Just he want to sit and watch TV and playing.&rdquo;</p><p>Khalid said a staff member at RefugeeONE helped by making a schedule for her 8-year old son.</p><p>&ldquo;She said you give him this routine for everything,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;When he (wakes) up, (goes) to school and he (comes) back, eat, and like one hour for writing, reading. I can&rsquo;t do that by myself.&rdquo;</p><p>Khalid said her son&rsquo;s back on track now.</p><p>RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program also provides a critical, one-stop shop for many teachers who need help reaching students&rsquo; families.</p><p>&ldquo;If something arises throughout the year, that&rsquo;s my first contact, again mostly because of the language barrier,&rdquo; said Benjamin Meier, a math teacher at Roosevelt High school. The school has kids from more than 40 language backgrounds, including Arabic, Nepali, Amharic, Tigrinya, Karen, Zomi, Swahili, Dzongkha, and more.</p><p>Meier said RefugeeONE not only helps him communicate with parents, but also teaches parents how to get involved in their children&rsquo;s education.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of the parents traditionally just defer to whatever the school says,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;We prefer more of a give-and-take.&rdquo;</p><p>Meier said RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program has been effective because it brings in families&rsquo; case workers to craft holistic approaches to children&rsquo;s success.</p><p>Kano said RefugeeONE will dip into its general funds to keep services going through September. But if federal funds aren&rsquo;t released by then, the organization is planning to discontinue its youth support in October.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/refugee-youth-services-threatened-110656 Child migrant expert: The kids will keep coming http://www.wbez.org/news/child-migrant-expert-kids-will-keep-coming-110612 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/unaccompanied minors.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Federal officials recently announced they would close three temporary detention shelters in Oklahoma, Texas and California, in part because the flow of children across the southern U.S. border has slowed. The news comes weeks into a heated debate over what to do about large numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America.</p><p>But one Chicago expert, recently returned from studying migrant children in Guatemala, believes the slowdown won&rsquo;t last.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a culture of migration where, in many ways, it is a rite of passage that you do start to think about your household, you think about your family, you think about your future at age 13, 14, 15,&rdquo; said Lauren Heidbrink, an anthropologist and Assistant Professor at National Louis University in Chicago.</p><p>Heidbrink has authored a book on the topic, titled <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Migrant-Youth-Transnational-Families-State/dp/0812246047"><em>Migrant Youth, Transnational Families and the State: Care and Contested Interests</em></a>, and recently returned from a field study in the Departments of San Marcos and Quezaltenango in western Guatemala.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a different cultural context. There are different expectations of young people in Guatemala than we have of a 14-year old in the U.S,&rdquo; said Heidbrink.</p><p>While there, Heidbrink said she witnessed a widespread campaign to dissuade children from making the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Texas border. The U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection has launched a <a href="http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/USCBP#.U-Kos_ldWSo">multimedia campaign</a> &mdash; which included commissioning a <a href="http://www.dvidshub.net/audio/37278/radio-psa-la-bestia-norte-full-version#.U-Kon_ldWSr">radio tune</a> modeled in the tradition of popular gangster ballads known as <em>narcorridos</em> &mdash; to emphasize the dangers of the journey to children and their families.</p><p>But in the indigenous, subsistence-farm communities where Heidbrink works, the messages are not taking root.</p><p>&ldquo;They know the risks,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But the risks of remaining outweigh the risks of migration.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said many children believe subsistence farming won&rsquo;t be enough to support their families &mdash; and that way of life has been further threatened by toxic mining activity nearby. In other parts of Guatemala and Central America, kids may face different hardships. But in most cases, Heidbrink says they decide to leave for the same reason: they see little future where they are.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t want to migrate,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a last resort for many people.&rdquo;</p><p>But Heidbrink said once children make the decision to leave, they&rsquo;re thrown into a vicious cycle. Those that are deported don&rsquo;t bring home the message that they shouldn&rsquo;t make the journey. On the contrary, Heidbrink said it becomes more necessary than ever for the children to try to reach the U.S. again.</p><p>&ldquo;Youth and families are being returned to the very situations that they fled, and nothing has changed,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;And in fact, layered on top of that, for many youth, is the added debt it takes to migrate.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said many families pay smugglers between $7,500 and $10,000 to get their children to the U.S. safely, with whopping monthly interest rates as high as 15 percent. Even with a college education, Heidbrink said most Guatemalans can&rsquo;t earn that kind of money. So many kids feel their only way to pay the debt is to <em>re-</em>migrate.</p><p>Heidbrink believes the U.S.&rsquo;s renewed focus on deporting migrant children faster will only make the problem worse. That&rsquo;s because the stigma of returning to their home without having successfully made it in the U.S. means they feel pressured to try again.</p><p>Additionally, Heidbrink said boys typically face ridicule for wearing different clothes, more hair gel, or listening to different music, upon being deported back to their communities. For girls, there&rsquo;s an assumption that they had to sleep their way to the U.S. &mdash; or that they were raped.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s one family that I&rsquo;m working with who let their community members know their daughter had migrated to Guatemala City to work as a domestic laborer in someone&rsquo;s home, when in fact, she had migrated to the U.S.,&rdquo; said Heidbrink. &ldquo;And when she was apprehended and removed, they met her in Guatemala City&hellip; brought her traditional clothing and told her what story to tell the community so that she could avoid that type of stigmatization in her community.&rdquo;</p><p>She said the children see the U.S. as one of their only ways out of poverty, and emphasizing the dangers of the trip isn&rsquo;t enough to deter them. Instead, she said they might give the decision more pause if they realized how difficult life in the U.S. could be when they get here.</p><p>Daniel Restrepo can attest to that.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember my couple first days, I was so happy because I was made it in the United States,&rdquo; he said. Restrepo was 17 when he made the journey from Colombia three years ago.</p><p>Unlike the children that Heidbrink studies in Guatemala, Restrepo had an easy journey to the U.S.: he came on a plane with a tourist visa.</p><p>But Restrepo said he overstayed that visa because he felt Colombia was too violent and corrupt. He never thought life in the U.S. would also be hard.</p><p>Restrepo said he jumped at the opportunity to be a dishwasher in a restaurant, because his weekly paycheck of $300 was more than he&rsquo;d make in one month in Colombia.</p><p>&ldquo;But I came again to the real world that $300 is nothing,&rdquo; he continued, &ldquo;And I started to owe money, and that&rsquo;s when started the nightmare in the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Restrepo works two jobs now, as a cook and a valet parking attendant, at downtown Chicago restaurants. He&rsquo;s barely making it. Last week the gas was shut off at his Logan Square studio because he owes $600 in unpaid bills. Restrepo said there are still no opportunities back home, but he&rsquo;s not making much headway here, either.</p><p>Heidbrink said it&rsquo;s been left to other parties &mdash; like non-profits in Guatemala &mdash; to share stories of struggle like Restrepo&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t talk about those experiences, don&rsquo;t talk about the challenges and poverty that exists in the U.S.,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;So there is this idealized image of what it is to be living in America and working in America.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said, rather than emphasizing the dangers of the journey, the more effective way to convince Central American children to stop migrating to the U.S. may be to tell them what happens once they get here.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/child-migrant-expert-kids-will-keep-coming-110612 Feds set to divert refugee funds to deal with unaccompanied minors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Refugee cuts 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Refugee assistance agencies in Illinois are steeling themselves for dramatic cuts in federal funding, which threaten to gut core services aimed at helping newcomers adjust and integrate to life in the U.S. The money instead is slated to go toward dealing with a crisis of unaccompanied minors streaming over the southern border, overwhelming temporary shelters that the U.S. is scrambling to expand.</p><p>&ldquo;This is really an impossible situation that we&rsquo;re being put in, in which we have to rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, and have to choose between two vulnerable groups of people,&rdquo; said Erol Kekic, chair of the Refugee Council USA and Director of Immigration and Refugee services at Church World Service.</p><p>&ldquo;This is happening against the backdrop of this incredible upheaval that is plaguing our world at this point in time with (the) refugee crisis getting way out of hand in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, etc,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;and (the) U.S. has to do its part to assist in this process.&rdquo;</p><p>In Illinois, resettlement agencies and refugee support organizations stand to lose a total of $2.7 million in funds from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agency is responsible for services rendered to refugees from their point of arrival in the U.S., to up to five years after. Refugees, unlike unaccompanied minors, are legally present in the U.S., and have already undergone rigorous background checks by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration authorities before they are admitted to the U.S. by the State Department.</p><p>Statewide, the cuts represent $1.3 million in core programming for refugees, and an additional $1.4 million in discretionary grants which fund services for K-12 children, seniors, preventative health care, and intensive case management for refugees with particularly acute need of assistance. Currently, Illinois provides these services to about 3,500 refugees, according to Deborah Covington, Vice President of Planning and Allocation for Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. That organization is Illinois&rsquo;s prime contractor for distributing and overseeing the bulk of ORR refugee funds.</p><p>Covington said programs funded by the discretionary grants will be completely eliminated. The state&rsquo;s seven refugee resettlement agencies, and two additional resettlement support organizations, will have discretion as to how to accommodate the cuts in core programming.</p><p>&ldquo;When budgetary crises happen, and we have a humanitarian crisis that&rsquo;s going on on the border, it&rsquo;s inappropriate to pit one deserving group against another,&rdquo; said Covington. &ldquo;The pie needs to be expanded, not simply rearranging the pie that&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would pretty much be gutting our services,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, which resettles the largest number of refugees in the City of Chicago. &ldquo;We have nine programs. Of the nine programs, four would totally shut down, and two programs would be drastically reduced.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said unless Congress passes an emergency supplemental funding bill that replenishes the cuts, she will likely have to eliminate core services as soon as October 1. Slated for the chopping block would be programs for youth, seniors, intensive case management, medical case management, and English language training. In addition, she will drastically reduce regular case management services with bilingual staff and employment services. Kano anticipates she will have to cut 10 of her 33 full-time employees, and 7 of her 11 part-time employees.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, what that translates into in terms of service provision is that you have to have intensive services to help single mothers, to help individuals who perhaps don&rsquo;t have significant literacy skills, to help individuals who have been warehoused in refugee camps for several years, to be able to adjust to life in Chicago and become self-sufficient,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Kano and others said cuts would also come at a time that refugees need them more than ever. In accord with a <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/02/presidential-memorandum-refugee-admissions-fiscal-year-2014">Presidential Determination</a>, which announces the number of refugees that the U.S. may accept in a given fiscal year, and from which area of the world, the U.S. has increasingly been taking refugees from countries such as the Congo, Iraq, Bhutan, and starting next year, Syria.</p><p>&ldquo;These are definitely individuals who have been through war and trauma,&rdquo; said Kano, &ldquo;and without the important programs that we are here to provide for them, they would really have (a) hard time to integrate into society here and become self-sufficient.&rdquo;</p><p>Refugee advocates are hopeful that federal lawmakers will reach an agreement on a supplemental funding bill to replenish the cuts by September 30. While a proposal by President Barack Obama to provide $3.7 billion toward handling the unaccompanied minors crisis would have made the refugee services whole, neither the House nor Senate have shown an appetite for such a large allocation. In particular, funding contemplated by House GOP leaders doesn&rsquo;t appear to come close to restoring the cuts for refugee services.</p><p>&ldquo;The House leadership is interested in passing legislation that provides much less funding and is much more focused on border enforcement and limiting the President&rsquo;s authority than they are in really solving the humanitarian crisis,&rdquo; said Fred Tsao, Senior Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still hoping that some kind of resolution will take place,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;but obviously the clock is running.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 Study: Undocumented immigrant youth languish in adult jails http://www.wbez.org/news/study-undocumented-immigrant-youth-languish-adult-jails-107539 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Immigrant children_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Chicago-based immigrant advocacy group has obtained data showing many unaccompanied immigrant youth are held in adult detention facilities longer than federally prescribed.</p><p>The National Immigrant Justice Center, which represents children who pass through federal custody facilities in the Chicago area, received the numbers after a two-year legal battle with the Department of Homeland Security. As part of a settlement, the <a href="http://www.immigrantjustice.org/sites/immigrantjustice.org/files/NIJC%20Fact%20Sheet%20Minors%20in%20ICE%20Custody%202013%2005%2030%20FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">NIJC secured information from 30 of the more than 200 adult immigrant detention facilities across the country</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The government is failing to provide even the most basic protection for children,&rdquo; said Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of NIJC. &ldquo;Our system has designed a place that&rsquo;s age-appropriate for immigrant children, and that&rsquo;s not adult detention facilities that are jails.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the data, more than 1,300 children were kept at adult immigration detention centers for more than three days between 2008 and 2012. Three of those facilities, the Jefferson County Jail, McHenry County Jail, and Tri-County Jail, are in Illinois.</p><p>Under the <a href="http://www.justice.gov/olp/pdf/wilberforce-act.pdf" target="_blank">Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008</a>, unaccompanied immigrant minors are required to be transferred to the federal Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours of apprehension. The law makes an allowance for exceptional circumstances, particularly if the child is thought to pose a threat to national security. But McCarthy says she doubts that accounts for many cases.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s something else behind this number, which is very unclear to me what&rsquo;s driving this,&rdquo; said McCarthy. WBEZ has reported that in the last two years, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/sharp-rise-young-unaccompanied-illegal-immigrants-tests-us-107511" target="_blank">the U.S. has seen a tripling of unaccompanied immigrant minors</a>, largely coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many of them pass through Chicago while in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, under HHS.</p><p>A <a href="http://womensrefugeecommission.org/forced-from-home-press-kit">2012 survey</a> by the Women&rsquo;s Refugee Commission found similar stories among roughly 150 children who immigrated illegally to the U.S. without adults. It found that many children reported being detained in overcrowded, low-temperature holding cells at adult detention facilities, at times denied blankets, adequate food, and showers. Most important, said McCarthy, is that children there are denied access to legal counsel.</p><p>In a written response to the NIJC report, ICE stated:</p><p>&ldquo;ICE takes the responsibility of caring for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) seriously and as of 2008, unaccompanied minors are not permitted to be detained by ICE for any longer than is necessary for Health and Human Services (HHS) to take custody of the minor. &nbsp;It is against ICE policy to detain an unaccompanied minor for more than 72 hours and in no instance will an unaccompanied minor be housed in an ICE detention facility while awaiting transfer to HHS. Unaccompanied minors are carefully kept in staging facilities away from the general population and minors are only held in ICE custody when accompanied by their parents in a facility designed to house families.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a>&nbsp;and at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZOutLoud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-undocumented-immigrant-youth-languish-adult-jails-107539 Sharp rise in young, unaccompanied illegal immigrants tests U.S. http://www.wbez.org/news/sharp-rise-young-unaccompanied-illegal-immigrants-tests-us-107511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Immigrant children.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An often-forgotten fact in the immigration debate is that lately, <a href="http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf">illegal border crossings to the U.S. have stagnated</a>. Except that&rsquo;s not the case for one category of immigrants: unaccompanied children.&nbsp; In just the last couple of years, the number of minors apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol has nearly tripled. Many of these kids come through Chicago, where agencies are scrambling to handle the load.</p><p>&ldquo;My brother, he called me and was telling me about the risk, but I just didn&rsquo;t listen to that,&rdquo; said Juan Cordoba, a young 17-year old whose real name WBEZ is withholding because he is an undocumented minor. &ldquo;I just thought that I wanted to be here, that I wanted to help my family.&rdquo;</p><p>With his attorney providing translation, Cordoba tells of how he was finishing high school in Honduras, living with his mother, stepfather and sisters, when he decided there was no point staying there.</p><p>&ldquo;As we all know, Honduras has a lot of corruption problems, there&rsquo;s a lot of violence, there&rsquo;s not a lot of opportunities,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and so as young people, we graduate and then you have no options, there&rsquo;s no jobs available, there&rsquo;s nothing.&rdquo; Cordoba said he believed there would be job opportunities in the U.S., so he decided to leave his family for what he hoped would be a better future.</p><p>It took Juan two months to cross Honduras and Mexico by bus and on foot. He ended up in McAllen, Texas, near the border. But then things fell apart. Juan fell into the hands of U.S. Border Security officials, who threw him into a federal detention facility.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really bad. They don&rsquo;t treat you nice,&rdquo; he remembered. &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t treat you like a human, they treat you like an animal. It was just not good.&rdquo;</p><p>Juan has two brothers in Chicago, so immigration enforcement transferred him to a child center here, in the custody of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.* He was released after a few weeks to stay with his brothers as his immigration case proceeds.</p><p>Most unaccompanied youth are detained near the border, but many, like Juan, end up in Chicago -- one of the largest off-the-border hubs for unaccompanied minors in the U.S. In the last two years, the number of children brought to federal detention facilities here has exploded, from fewer than 400 in 2011 to nearly 1,300 a year later. The Chicago area used to have just one child detention facility; today, it has seven, in undisclosed locations.</p><p>The spike in Chicago mirrors a national trend. The Office of Refugee Resettlement expects to handle more than 23,000 children this year, triple what it saw two years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of them are just fleeing violence or fleeing some sort of bad situation,&rdquo; said Ellen Miller, an attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, which represents all unaccompanied children in federal custody in Chicago. Miller said most of the increase is coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of them are coming to reunite with their family members who are already here,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Some of them, yes, we do have suspicion that there is other motivations in making them come here,&rdquo; she added, alluding to common cases in which children are trafficked to the U.S. for sex against their will. She said this is a particularly big problem with children who arrive from India and China.</p><p>The sudden influx has highlighted problems with how the U.S. handles these children. Lawyers like Miller represent them while they&rsquo;re here in federal detention centers.<br />But often that only lasts a few weeks, until they&rsquo;re placed in the custody of someone else, usually a family member. When that happens, the children are often flown out of Chicago, and the relationships with their attorneys ends. But their immigration cases must continue in the place they now live.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now kids are expected to find their own attorneys,&rdquo; said Maria Woltjen, Director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children&rsquo;s Rights at the University of Chicago. Woltjen said non-government agencies try to find pro-bono attorneys for these kids, but sometimes they can&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;We expect these kids to walk into that federal building, to find the courtroom, to go into that courtroom and figure out what to do,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And there&rsquo;s nobody there to receive them, there&rsquo;s no one there to greet them.&rdquo; According to Miller, some children that come to Chicago are as young as five years old, too short even to see above the bench in a courtroom.</p><p>Woltjen thinks there should be other changes, as well. She believes there should be a separate court system for immigrant minors, kind of like juvenile criminal court. Right now, kids are often on the same docket as adults.</p><p>&ldquo;We actually were accompanying a released child to court,&rdquo; recalled Woltjen, &ldquo;she was about 16 years old, and the judge, who was a very good judge...(hears an) adult case, adult case, adult case, and then this child&rsquo;s case, and the judge called her &lsquo;ma&rsquo;am.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Woltjen said judges and immigration officials are struggling with the increase in numbers, too. Without lawyers for the kids, they&rsquo;re often unsure if deportation is safe or in the kids&rsquo; best interest.</p><p>But Woltjen said the stress on the system may end up being a good thing.</p><p>&ldquo;It is putting more attention on this population of children,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So I think it&rsquo;s not only the NGO advocates who are pushing for changes in the system, but right now we think also the government agencies would like to see a change in the system.&rdquo;</p><p>Woltjen is particularly optimistic about changes that could come about through immigration reform. Woltjen credited U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) with including measures to help unaccompanied children in the so-called Gang of Eight bill. It would allow judges to appoint free legal counsel to unaccompanied minors. But there&rsquo;s no guarantee it will be kept in the final bill.</p><p>As for Cordoba, he says he&rsquo;s lucky to have a lawyer, and to live with his brothers while his immigration case unfolds. But he is still struggling with the memories of how he got to this country. Cordoba stressed the dangers crossing from Mexico into the U.S., but stopped short of describing how he got caught. His attorneys say before Cordoba was detained he was the victim of a crime. Cordoba&rsquo;s trying to forget it, and said to some extent, he regrets coming to the U.S.</p><p>&lsquo;&ldquo;But now that I&rsquo;m here, and I have this opportunity, I want to make the best of it and be able to stay here,&rdquo; he said. Cordoba said he&rsquo;s eager to get out of immigration court limbo and to to start working. Ultimately he hopes to go back to school and pursue a profession where he can help people.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;d like to become a doctor, or an immigration attorney.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZOutLoud">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p><p><em>*Correction: This article originally stated that the Office of Refugee Resettlement falls under the U.S. State Department. It is actually under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 01:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/sharp-rise-young-unaccompanied-illegal-immigrants-tests-us-107511