No Ordinary Migration: Through the Eyes of a Child

iStock_000025638736_SmallWilmar’s life changed forever the day his aunts and uncles were killed by a gang in Honduras. Haunted by the events of that day, Wilmar’s mother suffers from anxiety as she struggles to care for a family that includes his younger siblings and cousins. As a 16-year old and the eldest son in his family, Wilmar wants to support his mother in getting the medical care she needs but is unable to find work in Honduras. With few other alternatives for obtaining a better life for himself and his family, Wilmar decides to come to the United States. Upon arrival he is detained by immigration. The stress of not being able to provide for his mother creates a downward spiral of anxiety and depression prompting Wilmar to attempt to take his own life.

Unfortunately, stories like Wilmar’s are common in places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras where entire cities of children are fleeing an environment characterized by weak government, entrenched poverty, and armed criminal groups that prey upon vulnerable children to carry out their illicit activities. In response to projections that as many as 90,000 children are expected to arrive in the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year, President Obama has declared a humanitarian emergency as overloaded immigration courts become further backlogged and communities struggle to meet the increased demand for social services.

Thankfully for Wilmar and other children like him, National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON) has a national network of immigration attorneys and teams of volunteers who are here to help. With the support and representation of a free immigration attorney, Wilmar accesses laws that allow him to stay in the U.S. legally. He is now a permanent resident with a job at a bottle factory where he is able to provide for himself and his family in Honduras.

We are responding to the mass migration of unaccompanied children to the U.S. by sending our staff attorneys around the country to the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas where 1,200 unaccompanied children are temporarily housed. With support from our JFON Austin attorney, who is experienced in working with unaccompanied minors, JFON network attorneys will inform children about their legal rights and advise them of their options while they are housed at the base.  However, this immediate, short-term involvement is only the beginning of the immigration process with which the children need help.

After the children leave the Air Force Base, the majority will be sent to live with family in the U.S. as they await an immigration court hearing.  These children desperately need an immigration attorney to help them apply for benefits for which they are eligible. This will enable them to remain safely in the United States, through legal remedies such as, special immigrant juvenile visas for children who were abandoned or neglected. Our attorneys will engage in long-term work with unaccompanied children like Wilmar that puts them on the path to legal residency and a better quality of life.

With your support we can expand the capacity of the JFON network to provide further legal assistance to unaccompanied children by taking on special immigrant juvenile cases.

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