HOUSTON — The Galveston-Houston Immigrant Representation Project (GHIRP), YMCA of Greater Houston, International Services (YMCA), and Justice Action Center (JAC), represented by Bracewell LLP, filed on October 1st, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding the federal government provide transparency in its processing of unaccompanied children at the southern border. The suit demands that the Biden administration provide documentation pertaining to any immigration proceedings that these unaccompanied children may have previously been subjected to with their families under the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, also known as MPP.
Despite the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcing last week that it is planning on issuing a new memo to end the policy, the agency acknowledged that “terminating MPP will not take effect until the current injunction is lifted by court order.”
Public reports estimate that there have been at least 700 to 800 children who have presented at the border “unaccompanied,” but since they had been previously processed through “Remain in Mexico” with their families, they are being denied the same rights as other unaccompanied minors. As a result, these children experience delays and confusion when attempting to reunite with family or sponsors. In some cases, some of these children have even been deported overnight without due process in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which categorically guarantees all unaccompanied children the right to seek asylum through child-centric, non-adversarial proceedings.
“All unaccompanied children seeking asylum should be afforded the same standards and protections, regardless of any previous contact with immigration officials they may have had with their families,” said Jane Bentrott, counsel at JAC. “We hope this lawsuit leads to much needed transparency around DHS’ processing of unaccompanied minors, which has thus far been shrouded in secrecy and has resulted in significant harm to children and their families.”
“US immigration law explicitly mandates certain protections for unaccompanied children arriving at our borders, including the right to seek asylum,” said Chiqui Sanchez Kennedy, Executive Director, GHIRP. “Through MPP, immigration authorities have blocked unaccompanied minors from accessing the courts and protection in the US. To advocate for immigrant youth, we need to know the legal justification for these enforcement policies which violate longstanding immigration laws and put children in harm’s way.”
“Unless we have transparency, we, as advocates, cannot do our jobs,” said Nicole Sam, Senior Program Director, YMCA International Services, Immigration Legal Services. “Our hope in filing this lawsuit is that we will gain a better understanding as to the legal justifications surrounding these policies that continue to negatively impact the unaccompanied minors we serve.”
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GHIRP is a nimble, independent project focused exclusively on immigration legal services, litigation, and partnerships in the Galveston-Houston area. GHIRP’s legal services model – profound client-centered services combined with direct representation – promotes lasting reform in the immigrant justice system. Visit our website at ghirp.org.
Justice Action Center (JAC) is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for greater justice for immigrant communities by combining litigation and storytelling. JAC is committed to bringing additional litigation resources to address unmet needs, empower clients, and change the corrosive narrative around immigrants in the U.S. Learn more at justiceactioncenter.org.
YMCA International Services is a unique center of the YMCA of Greater Houston that addresses the legal, social services, and educational needs of newcomers, vulnerable immigrants, and youth in the community. YMCA International Services is committed to providing holistic case management and legal services to support clients as they move towards self-sufficiency and independence. Learn more about our agency at ymcahouston.org/locations/ymca-international-services.