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“It’s better to leave than have them kill me here"

Unaccompanied Children in immigration proceedings continue to draw national attention as the numbers detained trying to enter the U.S. continue to soar.  In her Op-Ed for the New York Times this week, A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis, Pulitzer Prize winning Author Sonia Nazario describes the fears compelling young Central American children to flee to the U.S. and other countries in record numbers. 

Ms. Nazario explains that murders, kidnappings, and extortion by gangs are all familiar fears to Honduran children.  She demonstrates that the children are, in large part, fleeing dangers far worse than poverty and unemployment, and that when they are deported from the U.S. without proper safeguards their lives may quite literally be in danger:

Milagro Noemi Martínez, a petite 19-year-old with clear green eyes, has been told repeatedly by narcos that she would be theirs — or end up dead. Last summer, she made her first attempt to reach the United States. “Here there is only evil,” she says. “It’s better to leave than have them kill me here.” She headed north with her 21-year-old sister, a friend who had also been threatened, and $170 among them. But she was stopped and deported from Mexico. Now back in Nueva Suyapa, she stays locked inside her mother’s house. “I hope God protects me. I am afraid to step outside.” Last year, she says, six minors, as young as 15, were killed in her neighborhood. Some were hacked apart.
 
Ms. Nazario's reporting rings true with the stories ICS staff hear day after day from Unaccompanied Children detained here in Oregon.  Through a grant from the Vera Institute of Justice, ICS is able to inform these children of their rights and screen them for legal relief such as asylum.

However, in order to help children fight their cases, ICS relies on the kindness of donors to either provide direct representation or pro-bono coordination for those children with cases to fight who are housed in Oregon long term. 

As Ms. Nazario points out, Unacccompanied Children are not entitled to an attorney appointment by the government.  But, she explains, "[t]he only way to ensure we are not hurtling children back to circumstances that could cost them their lives is by providing them with real due process."  A donation to ICS to support our Unaccompanied Children program will empower a refugee child to seek justice and may mean the difference between life and death.

If you are an attorney and wish to learn more about representing a child pro-bono, please contact Executive Director Barbara Babock at bbabcock@ics-law.org.

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