Florida has taken in 3,181 unaccompanied immigrant children as of July 7, according to a recently released federal report. Only Texas and New York have seen larger numbers of young immigrants, most of whom are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families, which released the data, says that more than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been arrested at the U.S. – Mexico border since October 2013. More than 30,000 of them have been released, often to their parents, as they undergo the process of immigration. Children may also be placed with relatives or family friends, but as sponsors, all sponsors must undergo background checks regardless of their own immigration status.
Many of these children are attempting to reunite with family members already in the U.S. as a means of escaping gang violence and poverty in their countries of origin. Under federal law, children from Central America are entitled to immigration hearings and protected from automatic deportation. While they await their reunions with their sponsors, the children are housed in shelters around the country, including in south Florida.
Although this recent wave of immigration has prompted much concern from political leaders, particularly related to housing and transmission of infectious disease, it has long been standard practice for the federal government to place these children in shelters.
In an interview with CBS4 in Miami, Cheryl Little, a lawyer with Americans for Immigrant Justice, expressed confusion at the uproar over sheltering child immigrants. She noted that the policy has been in place for years, that her organization interacts with such children on a regular basis, and that fears of disease are inconsistent with her experience and observations.
If you or a loved one are sponsoring a recently arrived child immigrant or have questions about the immigration process, work with respected Tampa attorneys at the Law Offices of K. Dean Kantaras.