As more and more unaccompanied alien children (UACs) from Central America have poured into south Texas—and subsequently transferred to Border Patrol facilities elsewhere along the border—US government officials are scrambling to find places to put them. However, based on current immigration and asylum laws, the vast majority of those children could be legally staying right here in the United States before long.
Under the authority of the Homeland Security Act, the federal government transfers custody of illegal immigrant children who are apprehended alone at our borders to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ORR’s primary goal is to reunite them with a family member or legal guardian already here in the US (regardless of their legal status) while the child goes through removal proceedings. As Breitbart Texas recently reported, UACs receive a bevy of assistance while in ORR custody, including classroom education, health care, socialization/recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management. In many cases, they are treated better than US citizen children currently in the foster care system.
The most valuable of all those benefits is the legal assistance. ORR has an outreach program to connect immigration attorneys willing to work on a pro-bono basis with UACs as they go through removal proceedings. For adult illegal immigrants facing deportation or applying for a status adjustment through avenues like asylum or cancellation of removal, finding a pro-bono attorney is next to impossible, and even lower-priced immigration attorneys are financially out of reach for cash-strapped applicants. But in the case of UACs, there is a program designed specifically to help just them, as well as unaccompanied refugee minors.
The pro-bono attorneys who volunteer to help these children aren’t bottom-of-the-barrel lawyers, either; some of them work for very prestigious firms in different parts of the country. One such organization that provides pro-bono legal services for UACs is The Safe Passage Project. Their “attorneys of the week” list highlighted on their main page included a litigator who has practiced multiple areas of law, including Immigration, Foreclosure, Personal Injury, and Real Estate, for seven years and established her own law firm on Wall Street.
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