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How the Asylum Petition Process Works for Immigrant Children

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is now caring for more than 50,000 young immigrants classified under unaccompanied alien child (UAC) status. The majority of these children are from the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, less than five percent are from Mexico and Ecuador. All these nations have something in common: They have been ravished by the violence, poverty and corruption brought on by the U.S. War on Drugs.

Although Mexico has been deeply impacted by the War on Drugs in recent years, not many Mexican children have crossed the border seeking UAC status; there is a legal reason for this: Under legislation enacted by former President George W. Bush to combat human trafficking, children from Canada and Mexico who seek UAC status must be deported immediately; all others must be transferred to HHS and placed under ORR custody.

When a child enters UAC status, he or she must be given the right to due process for the purpose of petitioning the government for humanitarian relief and asylum, which would grant them the right to legally stay in the U.S. and even become legal residents some day. The asylum process, however, is intricate and requires sophisticated legal immigration counsel in San Diego.

The first step in the UAC asylum process is to complete a nine-page document that is only available in Spanish. This is a process filled with bureaucratic pitfalls, which means that a mistake on the asylum application could delay the process. It is unreasonable to think that children can navigate this process by themselves, and the pro bono assistance available is not available to all these young refugees.

Children in UAC status must be interviewed by immigration officials who will determine if there are inherent risks in deportation. Asylum can be granted to children who have either experienced or are at risk of being recruited by a criminal gang or who could be subject to violence and abuse. One of the strongest scenarios in support of asylum would be a child getting deported and later recruited by a gang employed by a drug cartel to target U.S. drug enforcement agents.

For more information about legal assistance for young refugees or family law immigration in San Diego, contact the professional immigration lawyers at Kazmi and Sakata Law at 858-874-0711. We are available to answer any questions you may have and also offer free consultations.

May 2024