CARECEN’s Child Refugee Program Close to Overload

March 6, 2015

unaccompanied childThe Child Refugee influx over the summer was never a crisis for Long Island, but it is a crisis for the children, their families, and the people trying to serve them.

We currently have two full time lawyers on staff serving these children. You may have seen a press conference in our office two weeks ago reported on in Newsday on the funding of the second position. We are doing full representation intakes for at least 15 new children each week. Typically a single attorney can represent 40 such cases in a year, so you can see that we will exceed existing capacity for the two lawyers by the end of March. We currently have more than 60 children who have full representation intakes already scheduled for the remainder of March.

CARECEN also has one of the attorneys spend every Friday at the Immigration Court at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan to speak to the children from Long Island before they go in for their first appearance before an immigration judge. The lawyer orients them to the legal system,advises the children on their rights, and begins the process of matching the child up with legal services. This work is done in coordination with a group of non-profit organizations put together by the New York Immigration Coalition.

The arrivals of new Central American Child Refugees at the border has returned to pre-2014 levels, however, children continue to arrive on Long Island from shelters and detention facilities around the United States. And, in spite of the publicity around the “Rocket Docket” which supposedly scheduled children in court within weeks of their arrest, in fact we are seeing that a majority of the children coming in have are scheduled for court appointments in March of this year even though they were taken into custody by the Border Patrol in August or September.

Even the children who have had their first appearance in court do not have new hearings until this Spring or early Summer. The legal process has just begun for nearly all of them.