Eight unaccompanied minors were sent to the U.S. Immigration Court in Honolulu earlier this year, part of a huge spike in child migration to the U.S.
The juveniles were among more than 30,000 children placed with sponsors throughout the nation from Jan. 1 to June 7, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Office of Refugee Settlement in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Since October, U.S. border patrol agents have picked up more than 57,000 kids, most of whom came from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Many of them are seeking refuge in the U.S. to escape gang violence and poverty.
Courtesy of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Federal officials have struggled to manage the growth in child migration, which has more than doubled since last year, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
The influx has sparked highly publicized protests by anti-immigrant groups and intensified a nation-wide debate over immigration.
The Hawaii chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association held a meeting earlier this week where immigration officials confirmed the presence of unaccompanied minors in Honolulu Immigration Court.
The officials included Tim Aitken, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Detention and Removal Field Office director, and Michael Samaniego, assistant Field Office director Michael Samaniego. Neither could be reached for comment Friday.
Clare Hanusz, who was at the meeting and has worked as an immigration lawyer in Honolulu for 15 years, said it’s not surprising that unaccompanied children have been sent to Hawaii due to the surge in child migration nationally.
“To get eight in a year, that’s probably as much as we’ve had in probably 10 years,” she estimated.
Hanusz said to her knowledge, the unaccompanied children came from Central America and were being reunited with relatives in Hawaii. Immigration officials did not say whether the children had legal representation, and members of the attorneys group indicated they would be willing to take cases pro bono.
“It’s impossible for a child to represent his or herself,” Hanusz said, emphasizing the need for unaccompanied children to receive the benefits of due process.
Federal data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University reveals 46 children have undergone or are currently in the midst of deportation proceedings in Hawaii since October 2004.
Eight of the children were unrepresented, including four cases that are still pending, the data shows.
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