The U.S. Tries to Deport Not Protect Children Fleeing Violence in Central America

immigration-pielage-9.jpg
Andrew Pielage
Peña speaks with immigration attorney Gladis Molina, who manages Children Right's Program for the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Phoenix.
Molina was a kid like them once. El Salvador's civil war in the '80s was the backdrop of her childhood. She used to write words on the street with gunpowder found in bullet casings and light it.

She never understood the bigger picture, she says, until one evening a helicopter landed in her town's plaza to carry away a little girl whose body had been half blown away after she'd stepped on a mine.

"For the first time, I remember thinking to myself, 'It's not just about grown men; there is a little girl,'" she says. "So children get hurt here, too, and that can happen to me."

Molina got a chance to come to the U.S. with her siblings. Her father, who benefited from the Ronald Reagan administration's amnesty in 1986, eventually was able to sponsor them, though not without detours and complications.

"They gave us the American opportunity," she says. "You get an opportunity, and you see what you do with it."


Darlin got this opportunity.

On Friday, November 1, he sat in Judge John Richardson's immigration court in downtown Phoenix.

It was intimidating to see the silver-haired judge in his black robe. Sitting to the left of the judge was the federal prosecutor whose job was to get Peña removed.

It was just a few weeks before he would turn 18.

Peña took the stand. He raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth.

He was asked to give his current address at the children's shelter. Before he could blink, the judge stepped down and shook his hand.

"Welcome to the United States," he said.

"What do you want to study?" asked the judge.

"I want to become a journalist," Peña answered with the help of a translator.

On the spot, he was granted a green card to become a legal resident. The actual card came a few weeks later in the mail.

It appeared seamless to him because most of the legal work to get him to that point occurred outside that courtroom.

Peña qualified for what's called Special Immigration Juvenile Status, granted by U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services to children who suffered abuse, abandonment, and neglect by their parents in their country.

Attorneys had to present evidence (including a decision by a juvenile judge) and request it quickly because it only applies before a child turns 18. A juvenile judge had to call Peña's parents in Honduras to ask whether he could return to live with them and what involvement they had in his life.

Peña was worried about what his parents would say when they got a call from the court. They'd barely spoken in a decade. How would they react to being part of a process that implied that they had abandoned and neglected their child?

But they didn't contradict their son's story.

Gladis Molina sees just a few cases like Peña's in a year. Of the 3,000 children who came into contact with the Florence Project, only 60 were granted such special status.

"Each case we take counts for three cases -- juvenile court case, immigration law case, and social services," she says. "Sometimes you have to ask questions like, 'Where is your client going to live?'"

Peña's case is rare because the best interests of the child were considered, Molina says.
Most are uphill battles. One of the other options to protect a child from deportation is to win an asylum case. Since 2011, Molina says, her organization has prevailed in only one.


Peña's case is closed. By the end of 2014, there might be 90,000 unaccompanied kids like him, with open cases and notices to go to court, throughout the country. If the government fast-tracks their removal, many might wind up where they came from.

Not far from where Peña jumped the border fence in Nogales sits a warehouse called the Nogales Placement Center, a short-term facility to house Central American children. It's one of the impromptu solutions the federal government came up with to deal with the flow of children.

Inside, girls with wide, watery eyes look at a pack of reporters with pens and pads. They are behind chain-link fences topped with razor wire. Their hair stands on end, their skin is burned. Green mats on the floor serve as beds. A few pink teddy bears are strewn about. A pregnant teenager in a zebra print dress touches her belly as she flips through the pages of a Disney princess book.

These are new arrivals. They come and go. The law says they should stay in this temporary facility only for 72 hours.

"There won't be any questions answered," a Border Patrol spokeswoman in a green uniform warns reporters during a tour in mid-June.

Since May 31, the warehouse has been adapted to house about 1,000 children. A week after the tour, Secretary of Homeland Security Jen Johnson holds a press conference outside the facility.

"This journey is a dangerous one. At the end of it, there's no free pass -- no permisos -- for your children who come to the U.S.," Johnson says. "You're placing your child in the hands of a criminal smuggling organization."

Since the surge of refugees began, Homeland Security has spun a narrative of smuggling organizations promising families that they will get documents when they reach the U.S.
The immigration court system is so backlogged that court dates can get delayed for years. Some parents hope for the delay because it is the only way children can stay here.

Conservatives nationwide, including Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, blame the Obama administration for granting deferred action to undocumented children raised in the United States (a benefit that would not apply to youth coming now).

"This crisis that America is facing with these unaccompanied children, it is because we have not sent a strong message to these countries that our borders are closed, and we need a better government to step up and secure the border," Brewer said after she toured the Nogales center.

Strange, because the Obama administration has deported a record number of immigrants -- close to two million. Obama also is requesting $3.7 billion in funding from Congress and a modification of laws. His aim is to remove kids faster, provide more resources for border enforcement, and hire more immigration judges.

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164 comments
fankromank555
fankromank555

Those guys seem pretty cool to me dude.

www.AnonToolz.tk

Bret DaCosta
Bret DaCosta

Hey Gabe Gonzalez blow me.. oh never mind you probably like that kind of thing.

Gabe Gonzalez
Gabe Gonzalez

Send you away and take away your supposed latina heritage you filthy scum.

Gabe Gonzalez
Gabe Gonzalez

Better yet, trade your sorry excuse for a human to HONDURAS for the children. Learn to read and listen in english douchebag. the majority of these kids are from Central america, not mexico you friggin moron.

Gabe Gonzalez
Gabe Gonzalez

Enough of them? So, at 8 he should have had a backbone and fight for his rights? I can probably pull up many stories, videos, photos of headless people. People hung over freeway overpasses or shot up adults and children who tried doing what you suggested. Go to church and pray to god that he gives you a soul back...

Gabe Gonzalez
Gabe Gonzalez

This is why kids like this come across our borders, because of the promise of taking care of those in need. Something they do not have in their own country. How can anyone call themselves human if they do not have love and or compassion for what this young man has gone through in his young short life. I have more respect for this young man than for people who speak about taking care of our own and there not being enough room here for more. DID JESUS say the same thing when faced with more people than anticipated for his sermon and they did not have enough to eat or drink for those in attendance? No, he made more.. The moral of that story is that there will always be enough for everyone who comes. Shame on you Judy.

az53
az53

Send them back and quit wasting my tax dollars!!! EVERYONE should STOP PAYING TAXES and see if that wakes up the Goverment!!?? Our economy is already strained, abused with lies and fakes and fraudsters........can it really afford to take on more?? Hard working Americans will just have to pick up the tabs I guess (Again!!)

chingonblanco
chingonblanco

Si Se Deportamos!  When ILLEGALS call 911 to report they are lost and need rescuing by US LEOs, we clearly have an OUT OF CONTROL BORDER situation due the constant appeasement of open-borderistas and limp wristed Prog-tards.


We are NOT a NATION OF IMMIGRANTS!!!  Most of us were born here to legal citizens.  If you don't like it Lupe, eat a big bowl of verga!

Lauri Owen
Lauri Owen

Did you have kids, Michelle? If you did, you need to STFU.

Lauri Owen
Lauri Owen

yeah, f--k those kids! we should just let those kids be drafted into militaries, and raped, and die. [Judy, you SUCK as a human being, and you're sure no Christian.]

Lakeisha  Williams
Lakeisha Williams

From what I can see..many of the children simply climb atop of grain coaches of any given railway train. Sort of hobo style. Hop from train to train on thru central America until they reach the states. Their trip is free. However sending them back costs us money. How many times can we pay to send these kids back?

Mikey Lee
Mikey Lee

We are not a refugee camp for the world. We already have enough of our own people who don't get any help at all and enough people from other parts of the world that have raped our system dry of resources. These people have been leg to untreated for various diseases, there are gang members in the mix and everyone needs to to be sent back. Mark my words, there is going to be an increased epidemic of both disease and violence.

Mikey Lee
Mikey Lee

They need to go back. It's already been reported and confirmed that Border patrol have not been able to properly treat everyone who has flooded in here. It's also confirmed that they are bring diseases and that there are known gang members in the mix. We have our own people, children and issues to take care of. The US is not a refugee camp.

Tony Bayne
Tony Bayne

Sorry but all you people are ignorant. .. where did they get the money to make the 400+ mile journey to the usa... they flood spots of the border with kids and women then sneak there fucking terrorist dads and drug dealing cartels across when border patrol is busy... wake up.. 3.3 billion USA dollars are being waisted on these illegals. .... hunt illegal immigrants crossing the border... these are not refugees... these are planned drop offs by cartels to help destroy our country. ... they dont speak English. . They drive down our economy our minimum wage and our education system.... ya.. really fair to swamp our already low paid teachers with in educated non English speaking migrants... while we are at it lets go rescue all the Zimbabwe kids and Iraqi kids and moms and bring them here too?.... not..... Simply put a News interview crew asked a immigrant mother how her childhood was? She went on to tell them how horrible her whole life has been growing up in South America. Then they asked her why would you bring three children into this world to live the same horrible life that you just described. No comment after that. Stop wearing your heart on your sleeve and realize what's best for this country is best for you. and spending billions of dollars of hard earned American money on illegals is not the way to do it

rh19541954
rh19541954

I always love the goats who say "bleeding hearts", their destination is so not going to be nice! Jesus if he were here today would be called a bleeding heart, in his day the ruling class the Pharisees saw him as a heretic, false prophet, hated him with a vengeance, and ultimately plotted with Pagan Romans and had him murdered on a wooden cross, his great transgression was preaching to the thieves, harlots, murderers, healing the sick especially the lepers who during that day were deemed sinners and their illness proof of their sin and punishment by god, yes he was also preaching forgiveness, feeding the poor etc., things the self righteous of that day detested since it did not sit well with their authority, ability to decide who ought to be given kindness, compassion etc., today we have the mirror image of the biblical Pharisees they call themselves true conservatives, compassionate Christians aka lip service Christians, tea party patriots, generally anyone extreme right wing republican even a few conservative democrats fit the title! If Jesus were here today, ministering to these folks, these self proclaimed righteous would demand his arrest, incarceration and likely deportation as a illegal alien at minimum, but all would call him a bleeding heart liberal! I laugh at the term of bleeding heart liberal, eternity is a long time to pay for ones self righteousness, belief that ignoring the poor is optional, guess that is why once Jesus tells them he knows them not, God will not even look upon them! That lake of fire will be crowded with many who think they are not going there but then that's why they will be in awe and shock since they are blind!

Patricia Estrada
Patricia Estrada

What the hell happened to all the Good people in this world?!?!?

Patricia Estrada
Patricia Estrada

This country is already f***** up with politics! so what's the problem they are children and didn't ask to be born. I don't understand how people can be so damn selfish and talk like if these children are animals or as if they have no souls. I'm sorry but walk a few miles in their shoes

sarahjnock
sarahjnock

I'll take one of these kids! Send one to me. My house isn't overpopulated.



Mary Doe
Mary Doe

"I am in! Close the gates!'

GTFO
GTFO

NOT OUR PROBLEM.
ALL OF YOU BLEEDING HEARTS MUST HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT ALL OF THE HOMELESS OR POVERTY STRICKEN US CITIZEN CHILDREN THAT OBAMA AND THE REST OF YOU FAKE FUCKS ARE NOT HELPING.

Mary Doe
Mary Doe

Let us go all-Rand here. All justified selfishness. Investing in 'other people's children' is not a bad investment. Better than investing in other people's grandparents. And all of us, taxpayers, do the later.

Mary Doe
Mary Doe

And making the society's attitude towards children in general more harsh protects my child how?

Mary Doe
Mary Doe

I know what misunderstanding science is. But I do like you thinking, 'I believe the Earth is overpopulated. So you, other people, stop breeding ASAP. My parents and I are excluded.' Meanwhile the kids we are talking about are already born. They are already here.

Gerry Valenzuela
Gerry Valenzuela

The brave Mary Doe, with her fake profile and her bold opinions makes me sick.

Dustin Foose
Dustin Foose

I mean, it's only what? 60,000 teens? So 60,000 "concerned and appalled" citizens could easily save them all this trouble by taking in one of these kids.

Dustin Foose
Dustin Foose

Anybody in here actually DOING something to help or do you just piss and moan on facebook? Because that does jack shit to help anyone. Anybody offering to take in a kid or two? Pay for their meals and medical care? No? Then kindly shut the hell up about it.

April Angevine
April Angevine

For all you bleeding hearts out there, what the hell do think is going to happen if we keep them here? How many more are going to come and what kind of drain is it going to put on our economy? Do you enjoy paying for other people's children? And that's just the start, what are you going to do when school starts and your kids are coming home with bugs and diseases? Do you think we should all the "poor little" sick and poor kids from around the world here too??? Wake up!! Bet you all voted for Obama too!!! I say send them All back!!!

Dave Mcclure
Dave Mcclure

So there fleeing violence in South America and you expect them to stop in very violent ravaged by drug gangs Mexico you guys are idiots

Michael Swann
Michael Swann

cry me a river bleeding heart. not my problem!

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

The blacks in our society are really getting pissed off even jesse jerkson is voicing his disgust

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

Its also been reported the agents aren't going home in fear of spreading those diseases to their families

dogbiter
dogbiter

Put your shirt back on, you ignorant dumbass! You are so full of shit that somebody should slap some sense into you. You have no facts to back up what you say. Did you hear this crap on Fox News, the network you low-IQ racists watch with a passion. Fucktard, they're liars! Don't worry, none of these kids will be moving in next door to you in your AJ trailer park.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@rh19541954


Damn, when was the last time you actually lived in the real world?  Your comic book fantasy is hilarious, but not very meaningful.  


bleeding heart, bleeding heart, bleeding heart!  

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

That's the very question these refugees and other illegal immigrants first asked themselves when they realized their democratically elected officials didn't give a rat's ass about their needs let alone their very existence. 

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Golly patty, instead of telling others what to do, open up your own home.  Open up your own wallet.  

When did you ever contribute to a good cause?  How about American Cancer Society?  How about the Kidney Foundation? How about Wounded Warriors?  Or even Salvation Army?


The answer is never.  You bleeding heart ninnies only preach, but your loony advice is never for yourself.  


Liberals are hypocrites!

Gentle_Fern
Gentle_Fern

These precious tykes will make great stocking-stuffers next Christmas. 

benjamingeeks
benjamingeeks

School districts will not let children in without documented immunization cards. I am a teacher, and you are off base.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

You can't call people idiots until you learn the difference between "they're" and "there".  It's a rule.


john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@dogbiter Nice sidestep to answering his question a typical liberal reply ,throw out insults .

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