Connecting with Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Written by T. J. Mills, New York-JFON attorney.

From August 25-30, 2014, JFON–National invited me and a few other attorneys to San Antonio to assist the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) with the processing of unaccompanied minor children who were detained at Lackland Air Force Base. JFON assisted RAICES to identify the children’s eligibility for relief, including asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile status, and T visas as victims of human trafficking.

By the time I got there, most all the children were released from Lackland and already reuniting with family members and sponsors across the U.S.    My job was to call up the sponsors and family members of the children and connect them with legal aid in the areas of the country where the kids have resettled.   I focused on New York, so I suspect that a bunch of kids will soon appear at the clinics that we conduct here.

It was really satisfying to reach out in a very direct way to these vulnerable kids and to tell at least a few of them that I will see them back in New York!    In fact, I just got a call today from one of the kids’ family members out in Suffolk County.   Among all the counties in the U.S., only Los Angeles County in CA, Harris County in TX, and Miami-Dade in FL will receive more unaccompanied minors than Suffolk and Nassau Counties here in NY where over 2000 of the kids have resettled.  Fortunately, JFON’s newest clinic in Nassau County opens in October and will be one more resource in an area of New York that has always suffered from a lack of legal aid and a fairly unfriendly climate toward new immigrants.