Thousands of children are fleeing their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, due to the lack of economic opportunity and threats from gangs. Children have experienced violence, sexual assault and forcible recruitment into criminal activity of gangs. For parents who send their children on the journey to the U.S., the life-threatening journey north is a more appealing option to these children, and is viewed by their families as the last remaining option to secure their safety.
The number of children apprehended at the U.S./Mexico border between 2004 and 2011 averaged 6,800 per year. In 2012, that total jumped to over 13,000 children, and then to 24,000 in 2013. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) estimates between 60,000-90,000 unaccompanied children could enter the U.S. in 2014. They are being held in detention centers at the border and at other federal facilities like military bases.
How You Can Help
Volunteer support is not allowed in detention centers and shelters for the unaccompanied children, but there are ways you can help the children and/or immigrant families. We urgently need pro bono attorneys who are willing to represent non-detained children in the Houston Immigration Court. These children may have legal relief in the form of asylum, crime victim visas or special immigrant juvenile visas. The ability to speak Spanish is helpful but not required. Pro bono attorneys interested in helping with special immigrant juvenile cases need to be licensed in Texas. Attorneys should have experience in immigration law or be willing to attend trainings.
We also need non-attorney volunteers who can help with verbal and written translation and provide support work in managing the large dockets of released children who will be appearing before the Immigration Court in Houston.
If you are interested in volunteering as a pro bono attorney or non-attorney volunteer, please email probono@CatholicCharities.org. If you are interested in general assistance or donations, please visit: http://www.catholiccharities.org/uac