Last Friday, federal immigration officials in Little Rock, Arkansas arrested Tatiano Jaco, an 18-year-old undocumented immigrant, much to the shock and confusion of local immigration lawyers. The arrest calls to question the recently rescinded 2014 memo on detaining young immigrants and the present protocols for handling such arrests.
Jaco, a minor at the time of her entry into the United States, is currently classified as an unaccompanied minor and a priority alien. She was detained upon reporting to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office Friday morning for a check-in with the agency, and now deals with a pending court case without being charged for a crime. She has not missed a single court appearance. The location of her detention is unknown, even to her legal counsel.
The 2014 memo from the Obama administration stipulates that aliens like Jaco should not be removed until deemed a threat to national security or the integrity of the immigration system. President Trump rescinded the memo upon his inauguration, and ordered the immediate detention of “individuals apprehended on suspicion of violating Federal or State law.” This includes violations to Federal immigration laws, and calls for further proceedings regarding said violations.
Trump, however, has not announced a replacement policy to the 2014 memo, creating confusion on how immigration enforcement officers should handle the lawful detention of undocumented immigrants.
Immigration attorney Drew Devenport maintains that under federal policy, Jaco should retain her “unaccompanied migrant child” status despite having recently turned 18. As such, her situation should belong with the countless other immigration cases of child immigrants.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. Health and Human Services department had custody of immigrants like Jaco—unaccompanied minors at the time of their entry without legal guardians or proper documents. These children are held in temporary shelters for normally no more than a month, where they await their asylum claims and immigration cases to proceed. Jaco has not filed for asylum, but has stated in court that she intends to do so.
President Trump’s directive has no clear protocols for the continuance of this program, nor does his directive explicitly state unique protocols for dealing with immigrant children. Its focus, according to immigration attorney Cristina Monterrey, is on the immediate detention just for illegal entry, and, as such, provides no clear guidelines for handling Jaco’s case.
This sudden change in immigration enforcement is expected to make a huge impact on long-time resident undocumented immigrants in the country—particularly children who have managed to acquire legal status. Monterrey notes that a number of such children have expressed fear about the fate of their undocumented parents, who may have to be deported back to their home countries.
In Texas, cases like this are especially common in communities with a large concentration of immigrants, such as Houston, Austin, and Dallas. If you or a loved one is going through a similar situation, we encourage you to get in touch with the Lyttle Law Firm today. Call us to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle to discuss your legal options.