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 (DHS) and its subordinate agencies, from denying 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 March 4, 2015 Settlement Agreement of the Motion to Enforce the Perez-Olano Settlement
  • Download the Perez-Olano Settlement (Perez-Olano, et al. v. Holder, et al., Case No. CV 05-3604 (C.D. Cal. 2010))
  • Flores v. Meese: The Flores nationwide class action settlement was negotiated by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in 1977. The settlement reached with the federal Government, among other things, vastly improved conditions of detention of immigrant minors, and requires the release of minors to a wide range of responsible adults, and in most circumstances requires that detained minors be released or placed in licensed group homes within 72 hours of arrest.  In late 2014, the Center along with co-counsel including Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, La Raza Centro Legal, and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, challenged the Obama Administration’s new policy of detaining minors apprehended with their mothers. We also challenge the conditions in Border Patrol stations where minors are generally held for a couple of days following arrest. The case is scheduled for a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles on March 27, 2015. We are seeking a federal court order requiring that the Government release minors who were apprehended with their mothers to other relatives, responsible adults, or to licensed group homes. Below are links to the latest legal filings:
    • Download our Memorandum in Support of Motion to Enforce the Flores Settlement of Class Action (Feb. 2, 2015)
    • Download the Government’s Motion to Modify the Settlement Agreement (Feb. 27, 2015)
    • Download the Government’s Response in Opposition to our Motion to Enforce the Flores Settlement (Feb. 27, 2015)
    • Download the Flores Settlement, Case # CV-85-4544 (C.D. Cal. 1997)