When it comes to immigration, one of the most pressing concerns is how to protect children who are caught in the crosshairs of complex immigration laws. From the way in which they are treated by immigration officers, to how they are represented in court, immigration laws have a significant impact on the welfare of these young immigrants. In this article, we’ll explore the ways in which children are impacted by immigration laws, both in the United States and globally, and discuss the ways in which our immigration policies can be improved to protect and support these vulnerable young people.
The Global Challenge
According to UNICEF, there are more than 50 million children on the move globally, either as refugees, asylum seekers, or as migrants. From Syria to the United States, children make up a significant percentage of those seeking entry into new lands. These children face many challenges, including the trauma of displacement, lack of access to education and healthcare, and the risks of exploitation and abuse. In addition, many of these children face the prospect of being separated from family members, either due to forced separation or the necessity of departing before reunification can take place.
This issue is particularly dramatic in the European Union, where a massive influx of migrants has become a massive challenge. According to a report by the European Parliament, approximately one third of all asylum seekers in Europe are children and around 90,000 child refugees are estimated to be in Europe without parents or caregivers. These children face physical, psychological, and emotional risks, including the threat of human trafficking or sexual exploitation.
The United States’ Challenges
While the United States has historically been a destination for immigrants, the policies of the current administration have created significant challenges for children who wish to enter the country. For example, the administration has implemented a zero tolerance policy that resulted in the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents at the U.S. border. While the practice ultimately resulted in changes, with families now being kept together in detention, these separations had significant consequences for the affected children.
In addition, children who enter the United States as unaccompanied minors face unique challenges. According to the Migration Policy Institute, approximately 200,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended between 2014 and 2018. These children are placed in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for ensuring their safety and wellbeing while they are in the United States. However, this process is fraught with challenges, including the lack of legal representation for children, which makes it difficult for them to navigate the complex and often confusing immigration system.
Changing U.S. Policies
Despite the challenges of the current administration’s policies, there is hope that change may come in the near future. For example, President Joe Biden has proposed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that could significantly improve the lives of children affected by immigration. This bill proposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants residing in the United States, as well as provisions to improve border security and provide aid to Central American countries.
Additionally, the Biden administration has pledged to reunite children who were separated from their parents under the previous administration’s policy. While this process will take time and effort, it could help mitigate some of the harm caused by these separations.
The Importance of Legal Representation
One of the most pressing concerns for children affected by immigration laws is the lack of legal representation. According to a report by the American Bar Association, the majority of children in immigration proceedings do not have legal representation and are forced to navigate the complex legal system on their own. This can have serious consequences, including being more likely to be deported and less likely to obtain protection, such as asylum.
In 2014, the Obama administration created a program to provide legal representation for unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings. This program, known as the Legal Orientation Program (LOP), was designed to provide information and legal assistance to children who otherwise would be navigating the legal system without any guidance. However, the Trump administration ended the program in 2018, citing budget concerns.
With the new administration, there is hope that the LOP program could be reinstated, providing much-needed legal assistance to children who are navigating the complex immigration system on their own.
Ultimately, protecting the welfare and safety of children affected by immigration laws requires a comprehensive approach. This includes ensuring that they have access to education, healthcare, and legal representation, as well as addressing the factors that drive migration, such as violence and poverty in the sending countries.
There is also a need to shift the focus from a punitive approach to an approach that emphasizes protection and support for these young immigrants. Embracing the principles of child protection and human rights will create policies that consider the unique needs and challenges faced by children involved in immigration proceedings.
In conclusion, the complex nature of immigration laws has significant consequences for children caught in the crosshairs. Globally, children make up a growing percentage of those seeking entry into new lands and face significant challenges as a result. In the United States, recent policies have resulted in forced separation of families and put children at risk in other ways. However, there is hope for change, both through the policies proposed by the new administration and through the reinstatement of programs designed to provide legal representation for children.
Ultimately, it is essential that the immigration system be re-imagined to better serve the needs of these young people, recognizing their unique challenges and supporting their rights and wellbeing. By embracing the principles of child protection and human rights, we can help ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children are given the protection and support they need to thrive.
Laws Dealing with Foreign-Born Children of Illegal Immigrants In numerous cases, foreign-born children have been brought to the United States of America at such a young age, they have little recognition of their entry into the country–needless to say, without any concept of breaking the law. Yet, despite their unknowing–albeit circumstantial–involvement, these children are still subject to the immigration policy in America.
In terms of the larger goal of many immigrants to be naturalized, foreign-born children of immigrant parents, legal or illegal, find themselves at a serious disadvantage. Legislative advocacy for the enhancement of immigrant rights, such as the DREAM Act, would stand to create a path to permanent residency for children of illegal immigration to graduate high school eventually go on to an institution of higher learning.
However, no policy currently exists that outlines a means for foreign-born child of illegal immigration to gain citizenship unless imparted by a parent who had legal citizenship. This lack of permanent status may also adversely affect children of illegal immigrants; without a green card or Social Security Number, finding employment or attending a university proves infinitely harder.
Nonetheless, foreign-born children of illegal immigration are afforded some rights as residents of the United States, even though there exist many lobbyists that seek to limit their privileges. For example, a free public education is a federal mandate, and as a result, even children who have immigrated illegally are permitted to attend school with legal residents–a child’s education is not limited to citizens of the United States.
In addition, foreign-born children, like their guardians, might be able to benefit from emergency Medicaid funds, as certain hospitals are not allowed to refuse service to people in dire need, even in the absence of medical insurance. Still, despite the above protections from which these children may benefit, their lives may be decidedly more difficult than those around them.