Sunday, 14 July 2024 17:43

IMMIGRATION: Parents fighting for kids to stay in U.S.

Monday, 13 April 2015

About 80 percent of unaccompanied minors attended their first court hearing between July 18, 2014, and Feb. 24, 2015, according to the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts.

During that time period, judges ordered the deportation of 3,902 children in absentia, which means a hearing was conducted in the child's absence. That is out of 20,316 cases in which there was a first hearing held.

Victor Nieblas, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said some children and their parents or guardians are not receiving the notices of court dates. Others are told to report to court in the border area where the child was apprehended, rather than near the child's current home, he said.

When Guatemalan immigrants Elva Marroquín and Angel Rosales wake up every morning, they wonder whether that will be the day they find out their children will be deported.

Angel, 11, and Dulce, 8, are among the tens of thousands of Central American child migrants who last year left their violent homelands for the United States. Marroquín and Rosales are fighting in immigration court to keep their kids with them in their Rialto home. They fear the children will be killed if the U.S. government returns them to Guatemala.

Across the Inland area and the nation, the parents of other migrants are immersed in similar court battles and face the same uncertainty about their children’s future.

Nearly 60,000 cases involving children were filed in federal immigration court in fiscal 2014, nine times the number as in 2011, an illustration of the magnitude of the last few years’ influx of Central American kids, which peaked in 2014. The federal fiscal 2014 ended Sept. 30.

RELATED: Lawyers crucial for young migrants

Rosales, 34, has lived in the United States since he illegally crossed the border into Arizona in 2008. Marroquín, 27, crossed into Texas in 2009. The married couple intended to return to their hometown in the Guatemalan highlands, so they left Angel and Dulce with the kids’ maternal grandparents. But, they said, the increasing violence there – Marroquín’s cousin was killed last year – led them to send for their children.

The three countries that were the source of most of the wave of child migrants are among the most dangerous. Honduras had the world’s highest homicide rate in 2012, according to a United Nations report released last year. El Salvador ranked fourth, Guatemala fifth.


Angel and Dulce were apprehended by the Border Patrol shortly after they crossed from Mexico into Texas in June 2014, when the phenomenon of Central American children arriving en masse in the United States exploded into the national consciousness with dramatic media images from the border.

A few weeks later, Murrieta received international attention when anti-illegal-immigration protesters blocked a bus carrying Central American migrants from entering a Border Patrol station there for processing.

Immigration authorities sent Dulce and Angel to Rialto to live with their parents until the government decides their fate.

Meanwhile, Marroquín and Rosales have been planning to apply for protection from deportation under an Obama administration program that a federal judge in February put on hold.

On March 11, Marroquín and Rosales traveled to immigration court in downtown Los Angeles for the second hearing in their children’s cases.

Daniel Guzman, legal-resources coordinator of Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, picked them up at their Rialto home at 5:40 a.m. for the 9 a.m. hearing. Their trip in the pre-dawn darkness down I-10 took just over an hour, but they didn’t want to take the risk that an accident or traffic jam would make them late. Some judges deport children whose parents miss a hearing.

“I’m a bit nervous,” Rosales said in Spanish before the hearing as he sat with a cup of coffee at a Subway restaurant near the courtroom.

Marroquín sat next to him with their 18-month-old U.S.-born son Emmanuel. Across the table was Guzman, who in addition to driving the couple to court appointments explains the legal process to them and translates.

Rosales said he was even more nervous in January when a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official in Anaheim interviewed Angel and Dulce. The children are requesting asylum, and the official asked them questions about their lives in Guatemala.

Dulce and Angel weren’t in Los Angeles for the March hearing because Judge Ashley Tabaddor told the couple she’d rather have them in school.

As the hearing time approached, the couple walked to a high rise near Pershing Square, pressed the “17” button on the elevator and sat in a waiting room until attorney Julio Noboa stopped by to talk with them.

“These kids are as deserving as any unaccompanied minors,” Noboa said.

“I hope the judge sees these are young, innocent kids who are escaping poverty and violence. One thing the law recognizes is that there are times when there is no option for these kids to come here legally.”

Marroquín sat with Emmanuel in the waiting area as Rosales and Guzman walked into the small courtroom, sliding into one of the rows of dark-wood benches.


There were several cases before theirs, all involving minors.

First came a 17-year-old Salvadoran boy represented by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. He didn’t have a lawyer so his case was continued until he could find one.

Minutes before Dulce and Angel’s cases were heard, an 11-year-old Guatemalan girl sat at a wooden table in front of the judge, her legs dangling. She listened through headphones to Spanish translations of the proceedings.

The girl had been living with her grandmother in a small town in the Guatemalan highlands when increasing violence there caused her parents, who now live in Los Angeles, to send for her, her attorney, David Lluis, said after the hearing.

Gang members had repeatedly beaten the grandmother for not giving them money, and they robbed her of produce that she sold to make a living, he said.

Gang members often rape girls, and the girl would be at high risk of sexual assault if she were to return to Guatemala, Lluis said.

“I think her chances are good” to be granted the right to stay in the United States, Lluis said. “If it were an adult in the same circumstances, I think it would be different. There’s more compassion for minors and they’re given a little more benefit of the doubt.”

Tabaddor called Dulce and Angel’s cases.

Noboa told the judge that the children had had their asylum interview.

 “We are basically waiting for the decision, your honor,” he said.

“Sir, you need to continue to appear on behalf of your children,” Tabaddor told Rosales. “If you’re not here, I’ll have to order your children’s removal in your absence. Is that clear?”

Tabaddor set June 4 as the next hearing date and said if an asylum decision isn’t reached by then, Noboa needed to bring a letter from the immigration-services agency explaining what was happening with the case.

If the agency’s asylum adjudication officer determines Dulce and Angel are eligible for asylum, and the children clear a background check, the judge would close the cases, said Lauren Alder Reid, a spokeswoman for the federal Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts.


Back in the court building, Marroquín was anxiously waiting for Noboa, Rosales and Guzman as they walked into the room where she was sitting.

“How’s the case going?” she asked in Spanish.

“The judge knows we’re waiting,” Noboa said. “It appears to be going well.”

If the asylum officer allows Dulce and Angel to stay, June 4 could be their last court date, he said. But, Noboa told Marroquín, decisions often aren’t handed down for six months or more after they’re filed.

“In immigration, nothing is fast,” he said.

“Don’t expect it to be rapid. If you expect it to be rapid, you’ll be frustrated. The important thing is the kids are in school and there’s no fear you need to have now that someone’s going to take them away.”

As Marroquín walked toward the parking garage to return to Rialto, she said she remains nervous but optimistic.

“We go on trusting in God,” she said.

“With God, all will turn out well.”

Source: The Press entreprise

Google+ Google+