The Rights of Immigrant Children in the United States

Immigrant children in the United States have many of the same rights as children who are lawfully in the United States. Immigrant kids have a right to enroll in school. They can enroll in any public school and to receive services in school that any other child, whether born in the United States or born outside of the United States, can receive. They also have a right to MAP, which is the Medical Assistance Program of Travis County. This is a special health insurance program that exists in Travis County for people with limited financial resources, where immigration status is not taken into account for eligibility. Immigrant children also have the right to have their parents go to court for divorces, for protective orders, or for custody of the children, without regards to their immigration status. Immigrant children also have the right the fight their case in immigration court and to request asylum or any other immigration benefit that they might be entitled to.

If a child is in danger, he or she should request asylum so he’s not sent back to a dangerous situation. There are special processes for kids that allow kids to have a non-adversarial hearing, and if kids don’t request asylum when they first come to the US, it becomes harder if they’re sent back the their country and need to return to the US for their safety for them to get the same benefits.

The child, him or herself, can request an asylum interview and can say that she wants to apply for asylum. A parent or a guardian can say that the child needs asylum and can express that fear of return to the court or to the shelter where the child is living. Or any adult who knows the child and who knows that the child could be in danger in her country should request an asylum interview on behalf of the child.

For children who are under 18 years old, there are special processes to request asylum. They are allowed a chance to speak with an immigration asylum official rather than a judge to request asylum. And if they are not granted at the asylum office when speaking with an immigration official, they have a second chance to request asylum before an immigration judge.

It’s important to talk about why you’re scared, to talk about specific experiences that made you scared or feel threatened in your home country, and to express how these experiences affected you personally. You should also discuss who you’re scared of. If there’s a particular person or group that you’re afraid will hurt you in particular, if you’ve been threatened by this group or if you’ve ever been physically hurt or harmed by this person or group, and then to discuss whether there are other people who have the same fear as you and why they have the same fear as you. If you know others who have been hurt, or harmed, or threatened by the person or group that you fear, mention that. Lastly, you should discuss why you think this danger still exists in your country, mentioning whether you could go anywhere else to be safe or whether the whole country is a place where you might be in danger. In particular, you should be very specific and mention as much detail as you can, and always tell the truth in your asylum interview.


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How to determine if your immigrant child is in the U.S.A.

On June 19, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — the government agency tasked with processing, housing, and caring for unaccompanied immigrant children — opened a telephone hotline for individuals wanting to know whether their child is in ORR care.

The number is 1-800-203-7001 and will be operational 7 days a week from 9:00AM to 9:00PM Eastern Standard Time. Individuals searching for a child should have the child’s name, date of birth, and any important or identifying information about the child (for example, scars, birthmarks, or medications required). The telephone operator, who is a Spanish speaker, will take down the information about the child and the caller’s contact information. He or she will then conduct a search of ORR systems to determine if the child is in ORR care. If the child is, in fact, in ORR custody, the child’s case worker will be provided with the caller’s contact information, and the caller will be contacted by the case worker as soon as is practicable.

The packet of documents required to reunite a child with his or her parent or sponsor is called the Family Reunification Packet. The packet includes an Application for Family Reunification, and is available in Spanish and English. All required documents are on ORR’s website (link below) under “Key Documents for the Unaccompanied Children’s Services Program.”

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/programs/ucs

If you are the parent or caregiver of an immigrant minor, and would like assistance exploring immigration-related legal issues related to your child, please contact us at (512) 633-1785 or via our website contact form to schedule a consultation.