“The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone.”
Historically, the U.S. hasn’t had to deal with child migrants often. Most of them typically come from Mexico, and are apprehended at the border, screened to see if they’re legally allowed to stay in the United States, and then either sent back or put into custody. However, more and more Central American children are migrating to the United States, who have to be given full court proceedings according to current U.S. policy.
Essentially, the UAC crisis is caused in part by the government’s lack of preparation.
“I would not say this is a question of inadequate prior legislation – most legislation is enacted to remedy an existing problem – the Mexico solution addressed that problem. This latest swarm of Central American children is now a new problem that Congress can fix, but unfortunately, politics will likely prevent a rational and appropriate remedy,” says Maria A. Sanders, Attorney at Lawat Legislative Intent Service, Inc. “However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t in place existing federal legislation that could provide solutions to this new immigration problem – perhaps finding that the children are refugees seeking political asylum, etc, could be utilized to fashion a solution for them. I’m sure that there are other adaptive solutions which we will hear more about over the next few days and weeks.”
What’s more, President Obama requested $3.7 billion in funding this week to help the government deal with the surge of Central American migrant children. The request calls for $15 million to give direct legal representation services to children in immigration proceedings.
Also, the Executive Office for Immigration Review heralded a new program that will enroll about 100 lawyers and paralegals who will provide legal services to UACs. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, this is a step that will “protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society.”