There have been more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors attempting to cross into the United States by way of the U.S.-Mexico border. A lot of these minors are under the age of 12. In fact, the Pew Research Center is reporting a 117% rise “in the number of unaccompanied children age 12 and younger . . . in the first eight months of this fiscal year compared with the entire 2013 fiscal year.”
Many children are coming from countries in Central America and cannot be deported immediately. This is because of a 2008 piece of legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush. It says that unaccompanied children who come from countries other than Mexico and Canada must be given due process. While these children await their hearing, they are often released to relatives. However, there are some children who must wait to be reunited with family or assigned a sponsor in the U.S. During that waiting time, they are placed in shelters.
It is important for these children to maintain some sense of normalcy during this period. This includes going to school or working with educators. A recent story on Arizona Public Media highlights one Tucson shelter that is starting classes in the near future. The children will not leave the shelter to go to school, but educators will come to them. It is not clear how many children have stayed at this shelter, but its maximum occupancy is more than 250. The story states that there were 43 minors from El Salvador during the first week of August and 73 minors from Guatemala.
This specific Tucson shelter is operated by a non-profit organization called Southwest Key. Southwest Key is a “federal contractor that operates other shelters for Central American youth across the country including Phoenix.” According to its website, it provides “transformative education, innovative safe shelters and alternatives to incarceration for over 200,000 youth and their families annually, while creating opportunities for their families to become self-sufficient.” The group helps immigrants achieve the American dream: “equality, education, and a higher quality of life.”
The shelter opened at the beginning of July, after the surge of unaccompanied minors at the southern border began to “[overwhelm] the immigration system.” The children currently at the shelter will remain there until they can be “reunited with family or sponsors in the U.S.” While the minors are residing at the shelter, they are placed under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement.
According to an HHS official's statement, the “average length of stay” for a child at the shelter “is less than 30 days.” After the child is able to leave the shelter, Southwest Key personnel will provide them with a “certificate that details what type of studies they had during their stay at the shelter.”
If you are dealing with an immigration matter and are seeking legal counsel, do not hesitate to contact my office. We are happy to schedule a consultation in order to review the facts of your case.