We Can Do Better: End Zero Tolerance; Support Family Safety

As a champion for those in need, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy fights for family unity every day. We condemn the Trump administration’s  “zero tolerance” policy, which has led to the mass separation of children from their parents when they cross the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing unspeakable violence and trauma in their home countries.
There is no law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to separate families. Today, the president admitted as much when he issued an  Executive Order directing the Attorney General to request that the Flores settlement be modified to allow entire families to be detained in immigration prisons during criminal prosecutions. Since 1997, the Flores settlement has prohibited the U.S. government from jailing migrant children.  
 
This is unacceptable. If the Flores settlement were modified in the manner proposed by the president, then children would be jailed while their parents are prosecuted. Furthermore, altering the Flores settlement will allow the administration to keep families in prison while they fight their asylum cases – which can take years. The Flores settlement arose because of the inhumane conditions families were being held in. Many of these parents and children are asylum seekers. This is an attempt to prevent Central Americans from availing themselves of our asylum laws, or to punish them for seeking asylum by keeping them incarcerated. The solution to this crisis is for the Trump Administration to stop its “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting every migrant attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Once released from detention at the border, many of these children will arrive in Charlotte to await proceedings before the Charlotte Immigration Court. As Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy prepares to offer them legal assistance, here are additional policies that will impact these families:

Asylum Defense

Last Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued  an opinion overturning protections for victims of domestic violence seeking asylum in the United States. This opinion will require many asylum seekers who are victims of domestic violence and gang activity in Central America to appeal their cases multiple times, resulting in certain deportation for immigrants without attorneys. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy represents many children and some adults in domestic violence and gang-related asylum claims. The Attorney General’s opinion has made our representation more difficult and will require additional resources.

Protecting Sponsors

Since 2011, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has been an Office of Refugee Resettlement approved site for the completion of the required background checks necessary for a child to be released from custody to a sponsor. In addition to the background checks, we provide a legal orientation for the sponsors explaining the immigration legal process the children will be subject to. These sponsors are almost always family members of the children. In the event they are not family members, there is a requirement that the sponsor have a pre-existing relationship with the child’s family.

In April, the administration changed these procedures to not only collect fingerprints from potential sponsors, but also fingerprints of any other adults in their households with no guarantee that the information won’t be used for immigration enforcement.These enhanced requirements have created a chilling effect, forcing families and sponsors to ensure the release, safety and well-being of these detained children at the risk of exposing their own immigration status to the federal government. As potential sponsors choose not to accept this responsibility out of fear, children remain in overcrowded shelters. The average duration of stay has risen from 34 days in December 2016 to 57 days. Under this policy, the wait will only grow longer.

Access to Legal Representation

Regardless of what plays out at the federal level, these children and their families will
need legal representation. NO ONE, not even a small child, has the right to legal representation in immigration court. 

Many of these children’s cases will be processed here in Charlotte’s Immigration Court, adding to the already great need for legal assistance here. These cases will add to the more than 300 open cases Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy currently has for unaccompanied children, most of whom, have been subjected to some form of trauma over the course of their young lives. They have witnessed horrific violence or been subject to it in their home country or on their long journey to the U.S. These cases will take years to process through an overburdened immigration court system.

As a community and nation of immigrants, WE CAN DO BETTER.

How to Help

Contact your representatives. You have the power to change this narrative. While the administration has full power to end this policy on its own, Congress is considering legislation that will force the administration to change course as well as enact stronger immigration laws. Urge members of Congress to vote down the two anti-immigrant bills moving through the House this week: one proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte and another proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Neither bill adequately addresses family separation and child detention, nor does it offer a lasting solution to the administration’s decision to end DACA. A vote is expected on Thursday, June 21.
Share this message. Circulate this information and share on social media to let your networks know what is going on. The deliberate separation of families is a moral crisis that we as a community must condemn.
Stay informed. Join us for a community teach-in on what happens to unaccompanied children when they arrive in Charlotte and learn about ways to support them in our community. Monday July 2 U.S. Border Community Teach-in Presentation
Sign up for ACTION ALERTS for updates on policy changes as they develop.
Learn more about our Immigrant Justice Program.
Support our work. We fight for family safety, economic security and stability for all people, regardless of immigration status, but we can’t do it without you. We are the largest non-profit provider of legal assistance to immigrants in North and South Carolina. When you give to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, your contribution goes directly toward our mission of pursuing justice for the most vulnerable in our community.

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