End Zero Tolerance; Support Family Safety

As a champion for those in need, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy fights for family unity every day. We condemn the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy” which has led to the mass separation of children from their parents when they cross the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing unspeakable violence and trauma in their home countries.

There is no law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to separate families. Today, the president admitted as much when he issued an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to request that the Flores settlement be modified to allow entire families to be detained in immigration prisons during criminal prosecutions. Since 1997, the Flores settlement has prohibited the U.S. government from jailing migrant children.  

 This is unacceptable. If the Flores settlement were modified in the manner proposed by the president, then children would be jailed while their parents are prosecuted. Furthermore, altering the Flores settlement will allow the administration to keep families in prison while they fight their asylum cases – which can take years. The Flores settlement arose because of the inhumane conditions families were being held in. Many of these parents and children are asylum seekers. This is an attempt to prevent Central Americans from availing themselves of our asylum laws, or to punish them for seeking asylum by keeping them incarcerated. The solution to this crisis is for the Trump Administration to stop its “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting every migrant attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Once released from detention at the border, many of these children will arrive in Charlotte to await proceedings before the Charlotte Immigration Court. As Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy prepares to offer them legal assistance, here are other policies that will impact these families:

Asylum Defense: Last Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an opinion overturning protections for victims of domestic violence seeking asylum in the United States. This opinion will require many asylum seekers who are victims of domestic violence and gang activity in Central America to appeal their cases multiple times and will result in immigrants without attorneys being deported.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy represents many children and some adults in domestic violence and gang-based asylum claims. This representation is made more difficult and will require additional resources because of the Attorney General’s opinion.

Protecting Sponsors:  Since 2011, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has been an Office of Refugee Resettlement approved site for the completion of the required background checks necessary for a child to be released from custody to a sponsor. In addition to the background checks, we provide a legal orientation for the sponsors explaining the immigration legal process the children will be subject to. These sponsors are almost always family members of the children. In the event they are not family members, there is a requirement that the sponsor have a preexisting relationship with the child’s family.

In April, the Trump administration changed these procedures to not only collect fingerprints from potential sponsors, but also fingerprints of any other adults in their households with no guarantee that the information won’t be used for immigration enforcement.

These enhanced requirements have created a chilling effect, forcing families and sponsors to ensure the release, safety and well-being of these detained children at the risk of exposing their own immigration status to the federal government. As potential sponsors choose not to accept this responsibility out of fear, children remain in overcrowded shelters. The average duration of stay in these shelters has risen from 34 days in December 2016 to 57 days. Under this policy, the wait for these children will only grow longer.
Access to legal representation: Regardless of what plays out at the federal level, these children and their families will need legal representation. NO ONE, not even a small child, has the right to legal representation in immigration court.

Many of these children’s cases will be processed here in Charlotte’s Immigration Court, adding to the already great need for legal assistance here.

These cases will add to the more than 300 open cases Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy currently has for unaccompanied children, most of whom, have been subjected to some form of trauma over the course of their young lives. They have witnessed horrific violence or been subject to it in their home country or on their long journey to the U.S. These cases will take years to process through an overburdened immigration court system.

As a community and nation of immigrants, we can do better.

How to help:

Contact your representatives: You have the power to change this narrative. While the administration has full power to end this policy on its own, Congress is considering legislation that will force the administration to change course as well as enact stronger immigration laws. Urge members of Congress to vote down the two anti-immigrant bills moving through the House this week. The House is expected to vote on two anti-immigrant bills on Thursday, June 21: one proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte and another proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Neither bill adequately addresses family separation and child detention, nor does it offer a lasting solution to the administration’s decision to end DACA.

Share this message: Circulate this message and share on social media to let your networks know what is going on. The deliberate and systematic separation of families is a moral crisis that we as a community must condemn.

Stay informed: Join Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for a community teach-in on what happens to unaccompanied children when they arrive in Charlotte and learn about ways to support them in our community. Monday July 2, 6:30 p.m. at International House 1817 Central Avenue, Charlotte NC

Support our work: We fight for family safety, economic security and stability for all people, regardless of immigration status, but we can’t do it without you. When you give to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, your contribution goes directly toward our mission of pursuing justice for the most vulnerable in our community. Be our champion for those in need!

About Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy:
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont) provides expert legal advice and representation to those who cannot afford these services but desperately need them, something the organization has been doing since its inception in 1967. More than a legal aid program, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy also provides committed advocacy on behalf of low-income people and marginalized communities who are at risk of becoming trapped in the cycle of poverty.

Today, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has a staff of 40 and a volunteer base of more than 500 legal professionals who help thousands of families facing a crisis of safety, shelter, health or income. For more information, visit www.charlottelegaladvocacy.org.

Read this statement on our website: http://bit.ly/bebetterCLT

The Charlotte Women’s March  is posting this informative article, published on June 20, 2018, which has been provided by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. All links and references have been provided by them. The original article was posted here.