The LAA supports a compassionate, timely and fair response to the migrant children who have come to the border.
Since October 2013, nearly 60,000 Central American children have crossed the U.S. border without a parent or guardian. To date, more than half of them have been placed with family members or sponsor families across the United States, but others remain in shelters or detention facilities. These children are fleeing unimaginable poverty and violence; some flee forced recruitment by gangs and others have seen their parents killed by gang violence and fear for their own lives. They seek safety and hope to join family members living in the United States. Most of the children could qualify for legal protection in the U.S.
The Latin American Association is the oldest and most trusted fully bilingual organization in Georgia focused exclusively on the concerns of the Latino community. We serve over 55,000 individuals each year to empower them to achieve their educational, social, and economic aspirations. The LAA’s diverse programs holistically serve the needs of Atlanta’s Latino community and include family, employment, youth, education, translations and immigration services.
Our Immigration Services Department specializes in the representation of unaccompanied migrant children, and we are one of only a few nonprofits in Georgia providing this service. Our attorneys have served hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children in the past two years and our casework includes representing child victims who may qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Based on our long history of Latino community service, legal expertise and ongoing work with unaccompanied Central American children, we believe that five key actions must frame the nation’s response to this humanitarian crisis:
1. Afford children their due process rights and protections
U.S. law requires that unaccompanied migrant children from Central America have their cases reviewed by an immigration judge. The U.S. must fulfill these legal requirements and avoid expedited deportations, which are inconsistent with its obligations. Further, we believe that for due process to be served, each child must have legal representation by an attorney.
2. Protect current legislation
A bipartisan effort, the U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), secures the physical safety of unaccompanied migrant children and ensures appropriate screening for humanitarian protection.
3. Allocate new funds
Immigration judges currently have a backlog of over 350,000 cases. New funds must be allocated to increase the number of immigration judges in order to provide timely review of the children’s cases.
4. Enact comprehensive immigration reform
Only comprehensive immigration reform will be able to provide clear guidance and adequate processes for our immigration needs. A long-term solution will require an updated immigration system.
5. Address root causes
The U.S. can support the efforts of neighboring countries to help stop cycles of crime and violence that cause children to flee their homes. We support multilateral approaches that include conversations with nonprofit, government and business leaders.
How you can help
1. Contact your elected officials
Call your local, state and federal officials and ask them to support a compassionate response to the children. Tell them to say “no” to expedited deportations.
2. Support a child
Support a child through the Unaccompanied Minors Legal Fund at the LAA to provide representation for children in immigration court. Your contribution of $1,200 will provide representation for a child. You can also bring donations of new clothing, school supplies and non-perishable food to the LAA. Please contact Caroline Daigle at 404-248-2238 for details.