Most people think that only Mexican children are crossing the boarders. Indeed, it used to be the case that the majority of unaccompanied children were coming from Mexico. Nowadays, however, this is not true. In 2013 more than 21,000 children from Central America, such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala entered the country, versus 17,000 from Mexico.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, these children are not given a free immigration pass so they can live in the country. Illegal children nationals of Mexico and Canada, who are in the U.S. alone, can be returned back to their country immediately. Central American children must go into custody, i.e. temporary shelter, or sponsor (family) custody and trough a formal immigration process. That is, once these unaccompanied children are taken into custody, they are put into deportation procedure. The immigration process consists of a Notice to Appear in Court (NTA), where these children have a chance to defend themselves in court and try to stay in the U.S. The immigration judge is the one who will make the final determination.
As any other immigration court proceedings, these children are not provided governmental legal assistance. Most of the assistance is provided in a probono basis. Children who can find legal representation, are more likely to obtain legal relief. The most popular form of immigration relief is the special immigrant juvenile status, which will ultimately provide the green card to the children who is found to be abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents.
It is important to know that although they will get the green card, these children do not have a “free pass”. In fact, they do not have a “pass” at all. They live a very hard life and have to make extraordinary difficult choices at an age that most of us are safe at home. The U.S. and many Central American countries are working together to try to solve this issue.