With stories of parents and children being separated at the border being continuously reported in the news in California, many people are concerned about the separated or unaccompanied children and how they are treated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Two previous legal agreements provide some protections for children who enter the U.S. either as unaccompanied minors or with their families.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and the Perez-Funez injunction
The TVPRA is a federal law that was enacted under former President George W. Bush in 2008. This law established the rights of unaccompanied minors against mistreatment. The TVRPA provides different treatment for children based on their nationality. For children who come from noncontiguous countries, they must be transferred from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within 72 hours. They must also be given the right to a full hearing in front of an immigration judge before they can be deported. The Perez-Funez injunction orders the government to advise unaccompanied minors about their legal rights before trying to get them to agree to voluntarily depart.
The Flores Settlement and the least restrictive settings
The Flores Settlement also offers important protections to minors. Under this agreement, children under the age of 18 must be detained in the least restrictive surroundings possible. Unlike the TVPRA, the Flores Settlement applies to all children and not just unaccompanied minors. Children must be released from government detention without delay under this agreement. Typically, children should be allowed to live with relatives in the U.S. while their immigration cases are pending instead of being housed in detention facilities.
Immigrant children are especially vulnerable and may not know that they have due process rights. People whose children or relatives are being detained by ICE may want to get help from an experienced immigration law attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer may represent his or her client in immigration proceedings and work to secure his or her release from detention. An attorney may help his or her client secure status as an asylee or refugee so that he or she can remain in the U.S.