US government providing legal assistance to unaccompanied minors

Immigration advocates across the country are in search of lawyers who can provide assistance to children going in front of immigration judges. With more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors currently living in the U.S., many of whom ran away from their home countries to get away from violence, the federal government is stepping in to help pay for their legal representation.

According to USA Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Sept. 30 that it will spend $9 million in the next two years to help pay legal fees for 2,600 unaccompanied minors. The money from the government agency will be given to support programs that provide legal services to children who are apprehended at the U.S. border and want to apply for asylum so they aren’t deported back to their home countries.

There were nine cities chosen for the program that will receive money from the Department of Health and Human Services. They include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Houston, Texas
  • Miami
  • Baltimore
  • Arlington, Virginia
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • New Orleans
  • Dallas

Immigration advocates said the money was welcomed and will help support children who ran away to the U.S. in order to get away from gang violence in their home countries, the source stated. Most of the unaccompanied minors who have come to the U.S. are from Central American countries including El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

“What they tell us is, ‘I can’t go to school any more because of the gang violence. They threatened me because I didn’t want to join the gang,'” Gladis Molina, manager of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, told USA Today.

Immigrants are not typically given public funds for legal representation. However, children are not able to represent themselves in immigration court, so the government agency is making an exception. Many of the children who go in front of immigration judges say they are fearful for their lives, and news reports that some children are being killed after being sent back home are giving the children’s fears credibility.