To the Editor:
Re “U.S. Setting Up Emergency Shelter in Texas as Youths Cross Border Alone” (news article, May 17):
As the article suggests, a growing number of people facing deportation are unaccompanied minors. Under current law, immigrants — including these vulnerable children — are not entitled to government-provided legal representation in immigration proceedings.
Our organization, Safe Passage Project, finds that nearly 90 percent of the unaccompanied minors we meet who are facing deportation qualify for immigration relief, allowing them to remain in the United States legally. Many are orphaned, victims of abuse or afraid to return to their home countries.
Immigration relief for children involves a mix of family law, immigration law and international questions of custody and guardianship. It is unlikely that any person — let alone an unaccompanied minor — can navigate the jurisdictional and procedural barriers alone and without a lawyer.
While emergency shelters provide a temporary solution for unaccompanied minors entering the United States, appointed legal counsel to enable these vulnerable young people to receive the immigration remedies for which they might be eligible would provide permanency and would truly be in their best interests.
LENNI B. BENSON
CLAIRE R. THOMAS
New York, May 18, 2014
The writers are, respectively, director and staff attorney of the Safe Passage Project.