Migrant Children in Search of Justice: A 2-Year-Old’s Day in Immigration Court

These young immigrants are stranded at the junction of several forces: the Trump administration’s determination to discourage immigrants through trying to cross the border; the continuing flow of children journeying by themselves through Central America; the lingering effects of last summer’s family-separation crisis at the border; in addition to a fresh government policy which has made This particular much more difficult for relatives to claim children through federal custody.

At the moment, the government’s rolls include hundreds of children in shelters in addition to temporary foster care programs who were taken through an adult at the border, whether a parent, grandparent or some additional companion. About 13,000 children who came to the United States on their own were being held in federally contracted shelters This particular month, more than 5 times the number in May 2017.

All of which means there are more children showing up more often to federal immigration courtrooms like Judge Zagzoug’s, at hearings which could determine whether they will be deported, reunited with their parents, or granted the asylum which their parents desperately want for them. They often sit at counsel tables alone, unaccompanied by any family in addition to sometimes without even a lawyer.

Under the circumstances, the children in Courtroom 14, many of whom were through a shelter operated by the Cayuga Centers, were fortunate. Many were allowed to go home at night to a foster family, though they returned to the shelter by day. in addition to they could count on lawyers through Catholic Charities, which receives funding through a nonprofit group to represent immigrant children in fresh York City shelters.

“We used to just deal with teenagers,” one lawyer, Jodi Ziesemer, said as she ushered children to the 14th floor before the hearings began. “at This particular point they’re …” Her gaze swept the tiny group. Fernanda was gripping a green apple with both hands, occasionally taking a bite. As they moved down the hallway, her caseworker picked her up in addition to carried her toward court.

In a spotlessly bright waiting room, Ms. Ziesemer’s colleague, Miguel Medrano, spent a few minutes trying to prepare Fernanda for court. He bent low to talk to her, asking her name, her age, whether she spoke English or Spanish. “Sí?” he prompted her. No response. He shook his head. “Well, if she can’t, she can’t.” He turned back to her in addition to tried again in English. “So we’re going to see the judge,” he said gently. No response.