Let’s create a future where no child is alone in court getting deported.
Last week Meghan, our Head of Engineering, and I went to immigration court to watch pro bono lawyers represent children in deportation proceedings. We experienced firsthand the incredible work of the Safe Passage Project, a nonprofit that helps children facing deportation find pro bono lawyers and the support they need.
Some background on why this matters: right now there are roughly 775,000 undocumented children living in the United States. None of them have the right to a court-appointed lawyer. That means that unless the child can somehow afford a lawyer or find a pro bono lawyer to represent them, they face deportation through the opaque, complicated, English-speaking immigration court system all alone. What’s worse, they are then sent back to their countries, which they often left for a very good reason.
My grandmother is the one who told me to leave. She said: “If you don’t join, the gang will shoot you. If you do, the rival gang or the cops will shoot you. But if you leave, no one will shoot you.” — Kevin, Honduras, Age 17
Kevin’s story isn’t an anomaly — especially since the number of migrant children from Central America has grown rapidly in the last 5 years:
What’s worse, a recent report entitled “Children on the Run” found that about 60% of these children were forcibly displaced because they suffered violence from armed criminal organizations, like gangs and drug cartels, or from conditions in their homes. As a result, children that get deported are often sent back to incredibly dangerous circumstances.
I am here because the gang threatened me. One of them “liked” me. Another gang member told my uncle that he should get me out of there because the guy who liked me was going to do me harm. In El Salvador they take young girls, rape them and throw them in plastic bags. My uncle told me it wasn’t safe for me to stay there. They told him that on April 3, and I left on April 7. They said if I was still there on April 8, they would grab me, and I didn’t know what would happen. . . . My mother’s plan was always for the four of us — her, my two sisters and me — to be together. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to come. I decided for sure only when the gang threatened me. — Maritza, El Salvador, Age 15
How can we help ensure that no child gets deported without a lawyer to help them navigate the system? Well, one place to start is more pro bono lawyers! Thankfully, that’s what Paladin is passionate about.