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ICE Is Detaining Teens on Their 18th Birthdays - Teen Vogue


AUG 24, 2018 1:32PM EDT

Immigration officers are handcuffing and jailing unaccompanied immigrant detainees on their 18th birthdays, according to a new report by The Miami New Times.

Unaccompanied minors who are under 18 have certain protections, like more comfortable living situations and connection to their families, that undocumented immigrants over 18 are not provided. According to Lisa Lehner, an attorney with Americans for Immigrant Justice, the detainees are immediately treated as adults once they reach 18. “When they turn 18, it's basically, ‘Happy birthday,’ and then they slap on handcuffs and take them off to adult detention centers,” Lehner told the New Times.

Immigration agents reportedly place handcuffs on the newly adult detainees, chain their handcuffs to their waists, shackle their legs together, and drive them to immigration jails. There, the 18-year-olds are often put into cells with people twice their age, the New Times reported. Since April, ICE agents have done this to over a dozen 18-year-olds at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida, according to the New Times’ report.

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ICE’s Illegal Abuse of Teenagers Proves the Agency Is Beyond Reform - Slate

7:01 PM

Early one morning in February 2018, an undocumented immigrant named Ana was told to report to a government office within the shelter where she was being housed. A month earlier, she had fled to the United States from Guatemala with her 2-year-old son after gang members threatened to kill her. Because she was 17, immigration officials placed her and her son in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which sent them to a shelter in New York. On this day—her 18th birthday—the staff instructed her to go to the office at 5 a.m. without her son. When she arrived, two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were waiting. They arrested Ana and transferred her to New Jersey’s Bergen County Jail. She was not allowed to say goodbye to her son.

What ICE did to Ana wasn’t just cruel. It was illegal. Under a federal law, the agency is required to place immigrants like Ana—undocumented minors who turn 18 in federal custody—in the “least restrictive setting available.” But under Donald Trump, ICE has ignored this rule, ripping immigrants out of shelters on their 18th birthdays and locking them in detention facilities with adults. Despite a raft of lawsuits challenging its actions, ICE continues to assert broad authority to imprison these teenagers. Its refusal to comply with the law is a powerful argument against calls to reform ICE instead of abolishing it.

In 2013, Congress enacted an amendment to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) that should clearly protect immigrants like Ana from unnecessary incarceration. The statute was designed to safeguard unaccompanied immigrant children who turn 18 in ORR custody. Under the law, ICE must “consider placement in the least restrictive setting available” so long as these teenagers are not a risk to themselves or the community, or a flight risk. These individuals “shall be eligible to participate in alternative to detention programs,” such as placement “with an individual or an organizational sponsor, or in a supervised group home.”

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ICE Arrests Teens Detained in Florida Minutes Before Their 18th Birthdays - Jezebel

By Prachi Gupta

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is legally required to unite migrant children held in youth shelters with family or guardians as soon as possible, and place them in the “least restrictive” settings until they do so. But increasingly, children who turn 18 in youth shelters are being sent to adult detention facilities or jail without a court date, or chance to transfer to a less prohibitive setting.

The Miami New Times reports on one such incident in Florida:

When one of his abusive mother’s gangbanger friends held a gun to his chest and threatened to pull the trigger, Nolbiz Orellana knew he’d die in Honduras. So this past January, the then-17-year-old made the harrowing journey to the U.S.-Mexico border, crossed over, and asked for asylum.

Instead of releasing him to his relatives in Nebraska, though, the feds sent him to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children. Orellana spent three months in the remote South Miami-Dade facility until April 8 — his birthday.

“When they turn 18, it’s basically, ‘Happy birthday,’ and then they slap on handcuffs and take them off to adult detention centers,” Lisa Lehner, a lawyer at Americans for Immigrant Justice who represents Orellana, toldthe Miami New Times, calling the arrests “a nationwide problem.”

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Government wishes happy 18th birthday to undocumented immigrants by sending them to jail - New York Daily News

A teen who fled his native Honduras to seek asylum in the United States, fearing for his life, was housed in a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children until his 18th birthday — at which point he was transferred to a jail cell, his attorney said.

On April 8, the day he turned 18, Nolbiz’s wrists were handcuffed and chained to his waist, and his legs shackled together at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in South Miami-Dade. From there, he was moved to the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach — where he was placed in a cell with men in their 40s and 60s, the Miami New Times reported.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to release Nolbiz to relatives in Nebraska — and immigration attorneys, who have been successful in forcing ICE to release other 18-year-olds, say his treatment by ICE is illegal.

“On their 18th birthdays, ICE literally shows up, puts them and handcuffs, and takes them off to an adult facility where they are put in an orange jumpsuit, and they are housed in a prison with all adults,” said Lisa Lehner, an attorney for nonprofit Americans for Immigrant Justice. “It’s just a continuing course of trauma that’s totally, totally unnecessary.”

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Lawyers Give Coloring Books to Kids Separated at Border - NBC 6

Wednesday, Aug 22, 2018

Attorneys are using coloring books to communicate with children separated from family at the border.

Watch on NBC 6 here.


Your Honor, Can I Play With That Gavel? - New York Times

The U.S. government expects children as young as 18 months to represent themselves in immigration court. Lawyers in Miami made a coloring book to help kids understand what they’re facing.

By Jennifer Anzardo Valdes

Video by Leah Varjacques

Aug. 22, 2018

Media coverage of the border crisis has heavily focused on separated parents and children. But migrant children’s nightmares are just beginning once they set foot here, as documented in the video above. Every child that crosses the border without permission has an immigration court case to fight, but there is no right to free counsel in that court.

So children, who sometimes speak only an indigenous language, are going up alone against government lawyers to fight to stay in the United States. If that sounds absurd, that’s because it is. Congress has the power to change this.

After President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy went into effect, we at Americans for Immigrant Justice began to see an increase in young children needing legal representation. We thought: How do we get toddlers to understand the gravity of their situation?

We created a coloring book to explain to these children their rights. It explains concepts such as what a country is, who is an immigrant and what a judge does. We read the book to separated and unaccompanied children as part of our “know your rights” presentations and have them act out scenarios from the story.

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The Government Isn't Doing Anything to Reunite This Family It Broke Apart - VICE

By Meredith Hoffman

August 6, 2018

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to do everything it can to reunify families separated at the border, but some children and parents remain trapped in different countries.

Ever since he was separated from his eight-year-old daughter almost three months ago, Miguel has been fighting to get her back. She calls him when she can—about once a week, though sometimes weeks pass when he hears nothing—from a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Miami, begging him to have her deported to their native Guatemala, where he was returned just days after they crossed the border into the US.

“She asks me, ‘Papa, how is my case going? I want to be back with you. I’m a child and I didn’t do anything,’ and she cries. I tell her she’ll be home soon, but I have no good answer,” Miguel told me on the phone, his voice trembling. “I’m desperate. Her mother is so upset she fainted. She’s said she’s going to commit suicide.” His daughter keeps asking why she is kept in “prison,” where she never knows if she’ll have the chance to communicate with her family.

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Some parents, immigrant kids reunified in Miami, but feds ‘unlikely’ to meet deadline - Miami Herald

July 25, 2018

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Para los abogados que representan a los niños inmigrantes, la tarea apenas comienza - El Nuevo Herald

25 de julio de 2018

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For attorneys who represent migrant children, work is just beginning - Miami Herald

July 25, 2018

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