United States, President and Central America discussed on Diane Rehm: On My Mind


No, when the young president kids in need defense, thanks for joining us. Thank you. So how do you find out who the children are, who are actually detained and where their families might be? This makes it extraordinarily difficult for service providers such as my organization, which provides legal representation on a volunteer basis to the children in their immigration, deportation proceedings because the the child is here because of same reasons that the parent is here. So when you separate the child from the parent, it creates extrordinary barriers to determining why that child's here and whether they do in fact need protection or they can return home safely. Is it true that these parents and children goes straight to the border guards and say, they're in need of asylum? What happens next? That's absolute. True. Most of these, the families that we're talking about are coming from Central America and they're fleeing extreme violence and persecution in Guatemala, Honduras, and they'll Salvador. So when they arrive at the border, they are very typically doing is presenting themselves to our border patrol and saying, I need protection in the United States. So in fact, they were acts or sizing their legal right to seek asylum under both international law and US domestic laws. And then what happens then they are placed into custody the and their cases are screened for protection and particularly for children who arrive unaccompanied the system is in place so that they have a full court hearing so that they can prepare their case, take time, find a lawyer and really get the services in the in the support that they need to be able to articulate why they're here in the United States. Okay. But a hell long. Does all that take? Well, in the case of adults who arrive, they go through an initial screening process. That takes typically a few days or a few weeks before they're allowed to fully apply for silence. They meet that initial screening for children. It can take some time. You know, typical case for us may take a year. I e r- the system is very backlogged currently for the two of these cases. So that's something that's an issue that we're also quite concerned about that the system really needs to be more fully resource so that we can process these cases more efficiently. Okay. And what kind of information do the parents have about where the children are new, who's taking care of them during this long period? Are those kids actually being cared for Howard, they'd being kicked. They really are being kept away from each other and not allowed to communicate, and you can imagine the stress and trauma that's causing both the child and the parents. They don't know where each other is. They're not allowed to communicate. And in some case. We've actually seen that the parent is deported and the child is left behind. My. So tell me in the best cases, what is that process per re-igniting? The kids with their parents. What we need to do is restore what was the the policy in the approach that we saw prior to this, this new announcement from the administration whereby families would arrive together, they would be initially processed by border patrol and then they would be released. They are still in deportation proceedings and the required to appear in immigration court. And the fact is that most children remain in the system. We have well over ninety five percent appearance rate for the unaccompanied children with whom we work. This gives people time to recover from their experiences in their home country and the very difficult journey to the United States. It gives them time to find a lawyer so that they can fully prepare case their case. And then it gives them time to appear in court, have a hearing, and then we decide, do they get to stay? They have to go home. So when do you what percentage directionally reunited with parents here in the US for children who arrive alone, roughly ninety percent have some family member here and of those about half have a parent who's already here. So very, typically, the office of refugee resettlement will reunite the child with that parent who then assumes responsibility for their care. They're still in again in deportation proceedings. We will match them with a lawyer to represent them in their proceedings. And we actually win about ninety eight percent of our cases which really demonstrates that these are children who need our protection. But what happens if you can't find family member, then they remain in federal custody. So very often they can remain with the office of refugee resettlement for months if not longer than a year pending the outcome of their immigration case. I mean, how are they kept? Are they sent to prison. What kind of civility are there? Oh, are maintains about one hundred children's detention centers. These are locked facilities that are scattered across the United States and the conditions in these facilities vary. But the children are not allowed to come and go from these facilities. They really are locked up what we're also starting to see a trend where the administration is starting to open larger, very institutional settings for these children. So for example, I was recently at the border and visited a facility that houses twelve hundred children. It's huge, twelve hundred. They're allowed to leave the facility for exercise for about an hour a day into an enclosed area. Other services are brought into them such as education, healthcare at cetera. But as you can imagine, locking children up for any period of lengthy period of time is really not appropriate. The average lanes of custody for children is also growing under. This administration, what's the average age of those children? The average age of the children that we work with his fourteen, but they range in age from literally babies to seventeen. We've worked with children as young as months old. So do I understand correctly that this process goes back to the Obama presidency? Is that correct? We've seen on a company children arriving for decades, but the numbers have grown tremendously since twenty fourteen when the bomb administration was in place, and that's because of this outflow from Central America where people are fleeing violence caused primarily by gangs and narcotraffickers, but the running for their lives. So we've seen a number of changes in policy starting with the Obama administration, but we've never seen the kind of aggressive law enforcement approach that we're seeing onto the current leadership. So you are pros. The organization called kids in need of defense acronym kind how many children do think you have been able to help in the last few months? And do we see that number increasing? Yes. We've actually worked with over sixteen thousand children since we opened in two thousand nine and we currently have roughly fifty five hundred open cases. And we've seen our caseload just mounting year after year, and it's still true that despite our best efforts and the efforts of our our colleagues in the legal services community, roughly sixty percent of these children are still going through deportation proceedings without representation by counsel. And I've seen children as young as five years old in an immigration court being asked to percent defense against people tation, and you can imagine how impossible that is for these young kids when they, I don't know what make this, what do you make. Cup it, and for those families still hoping per Silom, what is the process? If they present themselves at the border and express a need for protection, then normally they should be placed into deportation proceedings and then provided the opportunity to develop their case, present the facts that support their inability to return to their home country. And the immigration courts will then adjudicate that case and make a decision. If the person is is deemed not in need of protection than they are subject to remove on. But first, we need a full court hearing that's grounded in due process and fundamental fairness. How can they prove they need as the cases can be very complex. I before most it's a lawyer is essential to this process because US asylum laws is very complex and it's difficult for the individ-. To navigate that process without sound legal advice. But what the person is required to do is to present evidence that can be through testimony. It can be through an affidavit from a mental health expert who says, yes, this person is clearly experienced trauma. It couldn't be physical evidence of abuse or persecution as well as factual information about what's going on in their home country to demonstrate that. In fact, they are fleeing a country that's exiting violence persecution, human rights abuses, and how many of those people. If they are put on the as on track, actually show up in court. If they have counsel, the rate of appearance is extremely high, and particularly with children with the guidance of a lawyer. They stay in the system and there's good reason to stay in the system because the grant rate is is very high. As I mentioned. Earlier, our grant rate is around ninety eight percent currently. So there's good motivation to show up in court because then the person's granted status and the ability to remain in the United States safely. And finally, of course, Trump administration is tempting to discourage those coming through our southern borders. Do think this process said separating children from parents is helping not at all. I think this is such a violation of this country's very proud tradition of welcoming the newcomer, providing protection to refugees and it's a policy that needs to be reversed immediately. We need to, yes, process people in an orderly fashion, but we can do that without adopting these kind of punitive policies. Violence is pushing them out of their home countries. They really have no choice, but to seek safety. In another country, and I should mention this isn't just an issue that the United States is facing other countries in the region, such as Mexico are also receiving asylum seekers, which is another demonstration that in fact, it's these push factors that are driving people out. It's not the pull factor the United States when the thank you so much for lightning us. Thank you.

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