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Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those  

            who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."       
- Franklin D. Roosevelt                          

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Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Project



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Project Scope

The Unaccompanied Minors Project seeks to address both policy issues related to the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, as well as mechanisms for the delivery of direct non-governmental community-based services to such children. This web site is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for advocates and stakeholders highlighting key articles, studies, and advocacy efforts, providing a searchable resource database for representatives of minors, and making available to advocates new court decisions and proposed regulatory changes or legislation regarding unaccompanied minors

Current Efforts

The Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law (the “Center”) is collaborating with other legal services providers, community-based groups and other stakeholders to address the underlying causes of the 2014 “surge” of unaccompanied minors migrating from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras into the United States and how these minors are treated if they make their way to the U.S. The project will assess the legal challenges faced by unaccompanied minors making the perilous journey to the U.S., provide advocates with tools and technical support to represent unaccompanied minors, and identify and propose sustainable solutions to this mass migration based on compiled research and sourced recommendations from experts in and out of government in the three major sending countries in Central America, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

Initial research by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and other involved agencies have identified five common causes for the increase in migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America: (1) Gang violence in the home communities. (2) Abandonment, abuse or neglect of the minors (3) Lack of infrastructure supporting education in the home communities (4) Lack of infrastructure supporting employment and job training in the home communities (5) Desire to reunite with parents and other immediate family members in the United States.

One goal of the project is to prepare and circulate a consolidated and comprehensive report that explores the underlying causes of the migration, identifies potential consensus-based solutions to these causes, and proposes ways in which the U.S. (including the Government, NGOs, and other entities) may act to assist Central American entities in implementing these solutions.

In conjunction with preparing this report, the project hopes to coordinate meetings in both the U.S. and Central America at which stakeholders and experts from across the public spectrum can come together and discuss broad, workable plans to address the root causes of youth migration. These meetings will enable leaders, experts, community organizations and advocates to network, share ideas and potentially form a working group for executing proposed solutions and tracking progress.

The project will also focus on the treatment of unaccompanied minors once they are in the U.S., and the enforcement of their existing rights.  The Center is uniquely positioned to assess the treatment of unaccompanied minors due to its on-going role as class counsel in the Perez-Olano and Flores cases.  The project will make administrative, legislative and executive policy recommendations, and provide ongoing technical support, training and litigation support to legal services programs and community-based groups representing these minors.

Class Action Lawsuits

The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation serves as class counsel for all apprehended unaccompanied minors in the US, pursuant to nationwide settlements reached in two major cases:
  • Perez-Olano v. Johnson: settlement bars the Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), from blocking abused, abandoned and neglected children's access to lawful status as Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) by (1) demanding that they obtain the consent of the federal government before seeking the protection of state juvenile courts, or (2) by declaring them ineligible for SIJ merely because they turn 18 before filing for SIJ benefits. (Download the settlement)
  • Flores v. Meese: The Flores nationwide class action settlement with the Federal Government, among other things, agreed to vastly improve conditions of detention of minors to release minors to a wide range of responsible adults, and except in rare circumstances to not hold minors in detention facilities for more than 72 hours.  (Download the settlement)

Read more in our Legal Updates page.


Deportation for Possessing a Sock: Supreme Court Case Reflects How the War on Drugs Fuels the War on Immigrants:
The War on Drugs and the War on Immigrants have long been intertwined. Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Mellouli v. Holder, where at issue is the government's broad interpretation of already harsh immigration laws related to drug offenses in a way that locks up and deports without a fair hearing thousands of noncitizens every year. Mr. Mellouli, a math teacher and lawful permanent US resident, was charged for possessing four pills of Adderall in his sock.
For legal analysis of the case, check out the Mellouli symposium on the Immigration Blog and the SCOTUS blog's analysis.
Read More

Youth migration is changing definitions of childhood
Data presented by Torres, Blue and Swanson, taken from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, show that apprehensions of children under age 17 at the Rio Grande section of the border rose from about 14,000 to about 38,000 from 2013 to 2014."We have to think of childhood differently when dealing with these young people," she said. "They haven't had the same beginning as U.S. children. Their understandings of childhood, responsibility and the future are shaped by environments of survival. You can't attempt to integrate them without first addressing the traumas they have been through and the burdens of responsibility they carry. Most of our systems for refugee children are not yet equipped to address this important issue." Read More

US Delays Thousands of Immigration Hearings by Nearly 5 Years
In a fresh sign of the backlogs and delays pervasive in the U.S. immigration court system, the Justice Department has begun sending out notices to thousands of immigrants awaiting hearings that their cases will be pushed back nearly five years. The delay makes room for higher-priority cases caused last summer by a surge in unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border with Mexico. Read More

Immigration Offenses Made Up Nearly Half of All 2012 Federal Arrests
NEW US Department of Justice Report shows that nearly half of all U.S. federal arrests in 2012 by U.S. Marshals Service were for immigration offenses. Immigration arrests from five federal judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border -- which encompasses California Southern, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas Western, and Texas Southern -- made up roughly 60 percent of all federal arrests in 2012, a 15 percent hike from 45 percent of all arrests in 2006. In addition in 2012, these five districts accounted for 53 percent of suspects being investigated by U.S. attorneys and 54 percent of suspects detained prior to trial.   Read More



Central American Violence Video

Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — has risen steadily as violence has increased. Mary Small of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Shaina Aber of the United States Jesuit Conference explain what is driving people to flee for their lives.

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