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Children crossing the U.S. border strain resources

Extreme poverty and gang violence in Central America, mainly in Honduras and Guatemala, is driving many desperate children to attempt to enter the United States from Mexico. Many of them have family in the United States and several groups are now working overtime to help reunite these children with their families and help with immigration petitions.

Due to the influx of unaccompanied minors, the U.S. government has opened military bases up to be used as shelters in Oklahoma, Texas and California. However, as the children find sponsors or are reunited with family, the burden is shifting to four major metropolitan areas. As a result, many non-profits are now scrambling to help families enroll the children in school and fill out necessary paperwork to remain in the country.

The non-profit groups are often short of funds and it takes time to train pro-bono attorneys about the ins and outs of immigration law. In addition, law firms that do take pro-bono immigration cases often take only one case per year. One group even cut its staff back to half-days, but many of the employees continue to work full days because the workload is so large. One major issue they have to contend with is the government doesn't provide the children with representation, but they hire experienced attorneys for deportation cases.

The sudden influx of unaccompanied children into the United States is placing stress on the groups that provide the legal services they require. Qualified people are needed to visit the shelters to advise the children of their rights, and in some cases, family in the U.S. needs to be located and notified. In other cases, children need sponsors while their case makes its way through the immigration court.

Source: NBC News, "Miami Non-Profits Work Overtime to Reunite Border Kids, Parents", Carmen Sesin, August 06, 2014

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