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Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

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            who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."       
- Franklin D. Roosevelt                          

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Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Project



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Project Scope

The Unaccompanied Minors Project seeks to address both policy issues related to the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, as well as mechanisms for the delivery of direct non-governmental community-based services to such children. This web site is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for advocates and stakeholders highlighting key articles, studies, and advocacy efforts, providing a searchable resource database for representatives of minors, and making available to advocates new court decisions and proposed regulatory changes or legislation regarding unaccompanied minors

Current Efforts

The Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law (the “Center”) is collaborating with other legal services providers, community-based groups and other stakeholders to address the underlying causes of the 2014 “surge” of unaccompanied minors migrating from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras into the United States and how these minors are treated if they make their way to the U.S. The project will assess the legal challenges faced by unaccompanied minors making the perilous journey to the U.S., provide advocates with tools and technical support to represent unaccompanied minors, and identify and propose sustainable solutions to this mass migration based on compiled research and sourced recommendations from experts in and out of government in the three major sending countries in Central America, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

Initial research by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and other involved agencies have identified five common causes for the increase in migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America: (1) Gang violence in the home communities. (2) Abandonment, abuse or neglect of the minors (3) Lack of infrastructure supporting education in the home communities (4) Lack of infrastructure supporting employment and job training in the home communities (5) Desire to reunite with parents and other immediate family members in the United States.

One goal of the project is to prepare and circulate a consolidated and comprehensive report that explores the underlying causes of the migration, identifies potential consensus-based solutions to these causes, and proposes ways in which the U.S. (including the Government, NGOs, and other entities) may act to assist Central American entities in implementing these solutions.

In conjunction with preparing this report, the project hopes to coordinate meetings in both the U.S. and Central America at which stakeholders and experts from across the public spectrum can come together and discuss broad, workable plans to address the root causes of youth migration. These meetings will enable leaders, experts, community organizations and advocates to network, share ideas and potentially form a working group for executing proposed solutions and tracking progress.

The project will also focus on the treatment of unaccompanied minors once they are in the U.S., and the enforcement of their existing rights.  The Center is uniquely positioned to assess the treatment of unaccompanied minors due to its on-going role as class counsel in the Perez-Olano and Flores cases.  The project will make administrative, legislative and executive policy recommendations, and provide ongoing technical support, training and litigation support to legal services programs and community-based groups representing these minors.

Class Action Lawsuits

The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation serves as class counsel for all apprehended unaccompanied minors in the US, pursuant to nationwide settlements reached in two major cases:
  • Perez-Olano v. Johnson: settlement bars the Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), from blocking abused, abandoned and neglected children's access to lawful status as Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) by (1) demanding that they obtain the consent of the federal government before seeking the protection of state juvenile courts, or (2) by declaring them ineligible for SIJ merely because they turn 18 before filing for SIJ benefits. (Download the settlement)
  • Flores v. Meese: The Flores nationwide class action settlement with the Federal Government, among other things, agreed to vastly improve conditions of detention of minors to release minors to a wide range of responsible adults, and except in rare circumstances to not hold minors in detention facilities for more than 72 hours.  (Download the settlement)

Read more in our Legal Updates page.


New Hotline for Complaints on Border Patrol Agents.
If you're an undocumented immigrant who has dealt with the US Customs and Border Protection, the US government wants to hear about your experience, and it has set up a hotline to help facilitate these efforts. Read More

Examining the Unaccompanied Minors Surge and DACA.
New research from Niskane Center shows that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) not to blame for surge of unaccompanied minors.  Read More

PRESS RELEASE: Human rights and children’s advocates petition federal court to halt en masse detention of refugee women and children

Lawyers for detained Central American families filed papers in the U.S. district court in Los Angeles challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s “no-release” policy for Central American women and children, some 1,000 of whom are currently detained in camps in Karnes City, Texas, Dilley, Texas, and Leesport, Pennsylvania. Read Full Release

Safety for immigrant victims put on hold by U-visa delay
U-Visa applications on the rise.  Demand for the program has far outpaced a 10,000-per-year cap on the visas set by Congress, with just over 26,000 applications filed last fiscal year. There's even a wait to get on the waiting list: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the applications in the order they were filed, hasn't evaluated any application submitted after December 2013. Read More

Don't worry DREAMers, US immigration advocates have already won
In a matter of a few years a large swath of the undocumented population in the US will be formally employed. College students, recent grads and families where one or both parents have relied on deferred deportation will have been contributing to the tax base and to their communities.
Comprehensive immigration reform has already occurred, not while Congress slept but certainly as it stood inert. Read More



Central American Violence Video

Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — has risen steadily as violence has increased. Mary Small of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Shaina Aber of the United States Jesuit Conference explain what is driving people to flee for their lives.

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