There have been literally thousands of stories coming out of US border states about immigrant children, adolescents, and teenagers who have crossed over the US-Mexico border into the United States and are hoping for permission to stay in the country. One such story involves a Central American youth who has been living in Dallas-Fort Worth with his grandmother for almost a year and who was given a summons to appear in immigration court in late July. The young man does not speak English and neither he nor his grandmother has enough money to be able to afford an immigration attorney. He told reporters through an interpreter that he simply did not know what he was going to do.
This young man’s story is one that is becoming all too common in the United States, particularly over the last several months. The country has been inundated with young people under the age of 18 coming from Central American countries like Honduras and Guatemala, traveling through the Mexican desert and crossing the border into the US, many of them without adult accompaniment. In order to remain in the country legally, these children have no choice but to give account to federal authorities and each faces the risk of being deported. If they do not appear for their court date, judges have the legal right to send them back to their home country.
There have been nearly 3,000 deportation orders for underage immigrants through the first seven months of 2014. That is double the number that there were just five years ago and roughly 30 percent of those deportations were the result of the immigrants failing to appear for their scheduled court dates. Immigration advocates say there are several reasons why most of these children fail to show up for their court appearance including relocation (presumably within the US), confusion about their situation, an inability to find or pay for an immigration attorney, or they are just plain scared.
Many of the children are afraid of being deported, less because of not being able to live a better life in the United States and more because they say that they will be killed upon returning to their country if they do go back. But who exactly do they fear being killed by? For many of them, it is the street gangs that have become an epidemic in Central America and Mexico – gangs like MS-13. These youngsters say they are forced to join gangs in their neighborhoods or risk being hurt or killed.
That is the dilemma these immigrant children face. Federal immigration courts have been all but overwhelmed over the last 12 months as nearly 60,000 youth traveled the long journey and crossed the border into the country without any adult accompaniment. That is to say nothing of the ones who came with their parents or other adults. Central American youth are legally entitled to a court appearance before they can be deported. They are not, however, entitled to legal representation, which many advocates argue is the one thing they desperately need.
If you or someone you know would like legal counsel regarding this or any other immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorney at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas by visiting their website or calling their offices at 512-215-5225.