Since January 1, 2014, over 140,000 unaccompanied refugee children fleeing Central America’s “Northern Triangle” – the most violent region in the world–arrived on the southern border of the United States. For these refugee children, a grueling and dangerous 3,000+ mile trek north is the only way to escape the pervasive and unrelenting gang violence, crime, and poverty ravaging their home countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Upon arrival in the United States, immigration officials apprehend these refugee children and deportation proceedings are commenced. The Obama Administration has directed the immigration courts to expedite these proceedings. Thus, instead of waiting in line for months behind everyone else waiting for an immigration hearing, refugee children are rushed to the front of the line. Within weeks of arriving in the United States, refugee children face–what for many is a life-or-death hearing–where they are not afforded the right to an attorney and where, without legal representation, they have about a 7 percent chance of avoiding deportation.
Over 7,000 of these refugee children now live in Virginia, making it the sixth highest receiving state in the country. In an effort to address this humanitarian crisis and ensure that refugee children do not face deportation alone, Legal Aid Justice Center launched its Refugee Kids in Court project, connecting more than 100 refugee children statewide with pro bono counsel. Through the Refugee Kids in Court Project these children obtain the legal representation they need to fight their deportation cases and clears their path to legal permanent residency and citizenship.
- Young, Illegal, and Alone (The Atlantic, 10/15/15)
- VBA Features Prominently in National Media (Virginia Bar Association online, 10/20/15)
- 13-Year-Old Unaccompanied Migrant Girl Allowed to Stay in the US, Hopes to Be Doctor (Think Progress, 5/7/14)
- Maryland, Virginia Suburbs Receive Surge of Border Kids from Central America (Washington Post, 8/27/14)
- Expedited Hearings for Migrant Children Raise Concerns (National Public Radio, 8/1/2014)
- Migrant Cases Fast Track Stirs Alarm (Wall Street Journal, 7/28/14)
- Criticism Arises After Children Are Rushed to See Immigration Judges (Los Angeles Times, 7/28/14)
Sophia Gregg (Central Virginia/statewide) – Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program