The Obama Administration is taking steps to muster up support from the leaders of several states, all of whom will be hosting thousands of children from Central America who have crossed the Mexican border by themselves over the past several months, immigration attorneys in New Jersey report. In a recent effort, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell met privately with the leaders of these states, hoping to assuage concerns about cost, funding, and public education.
Democratic and Republican governors alike have expressed concern that their state taxpayers will not be able to shoulder the full burden of taking in these children, many of whom came over unaccompanied by parents or adult guardians. “Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said. “However, we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we’ve got to do it in the most cost effective-way possible.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is among one of the more critical, and vocal, of the Republican leaders, citing fears that immigrant children will be placed with friends or family members in the state without undergoing a check into immigration status.
Currently, immigrant children who come to the United States by themselves, from a country that does not share an American border, are placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services (HHS) agency within 72 hours of their arrival. From there, HHS will make every effort to place the children with relatives or friends already living in the United States, while the children wait for a ruling from the immigration courts. Often, these hearings take years to complete, immigration attorneys in New Jersey say. Aside from cost, some of the state governors are worried that, if placed with an immigrant family member who is undocumented, or not yet a citizen, the child may not show up for the required hearings. About 46 percent of immigrant children do not show up for their juvenile immigration court hearings.
Another concern is the legal aspect of determining the children’s’ fate. A 2008 human trafficking law gives immigration judges the power to decide whether an immigrant child will be sent back to his or her native country, or be placed with a family in the United States permanently. Currently, these teams have more than 375,000 pending cases. President Obama has requested a $3.7 billion emergency budget request, with funds going to set up 40 more immigration judge teams.
Since October 1, 2013, more than 57,000 children have immigrated to the United States, mostly coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These children need immediate homes, shelter, food, education, and stability while they await the outcome of their immigration trials, which will determine whether they can remain in America. At the New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our immigration lawyers represent children and adults who have come to America, and need help navigating the complex legal system that awaits them. For a free, no-strings consultation about your case, contact an HCK attorney today.