Thus far, Congress and the Administration have not set a good track record in their response to the increased needs of children and families seeking safety in the United States. In the wake of attempts to rollback legal protections for children from Central America, unprecedented expansion of family detention, and attempts to expedite the deportation of children and families, we are happy to share that the Administration has made two announcements that are important steps toward ensuring vulnerable migrants have access to the protection they deserve.
Presidential Determination for Refugees Admissions
This past Tuesday, President Obama released his Presidential Determination for Refugee Admissions that included an ‘in-country processing’ provision, which would allow a certain number of children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to apply for refugee status while in their own countries. While this program will prevent some children from making the dangerous journey to the border alone, it contains several drawbacks. In order to be eligible for the program, children must have a family sponsor with some form of legal status in the United States. This may prevent children with very real protection concerns from accessing the legal protections they need and deserve. Secondly, because of the strict eligibility requirements and the time it takes to establish such a program, very few children will actually be processed this year.
ORR to Commit $4.2 Million for Legal Counsel for Children
Also this past Tuesday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced its decision to commit $4.2 million in leftover funds to ensure legal counsel for 2,600 children currently facing immigration courts alone. Currently 70% of these children do not have legal representation to help them navigate the complex immigration system and nine out of ten children without representation are ordered to leave the United States.
Without representation, it is incredibly difficult for children to apply for and receive the relief for which they are eligible. This means children that would have a successful claim for relief may be sent back to dangerous situations. We applaud the ORR’s announcement.
While these two positive developments for children and families are heartening, we are still concerned that vital protections for children and mothers coming with children are being disregarded. We need your help to ensure that Congress hears the faith community’s call to welcome the stranger and protect the vulnerable. Please visit our Action Center to urge your elected representatives to protect children and families seeking refuge.