The rise in the number of undocumented children from Central America has raised significant concerns recently. Many young children are crossing through the Mexico-Texas border and being apprehended by United States border patrol from the Department of Homeland Security. Over 60,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended since last October while attempting to enter the United States illegally. These unaccompanied minors have fled their home country in Central America, particularly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, in order to escape the crime and gang violence there.
When an unaccompanied minor is apprehended, the Department of Homeland Security has 48 hours to ascertain the child’s identity and citizenship. The child must then be transferred to a shelter managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours of apprehension. While waiting for their immigration court hearings, efforts will be made to reunite those children with their family.
Many are not aware, but some of these children who are unable to be reunited with their parents or family may qualify under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ) which will allow them to legally stay in the United States. In order to qualify, the child will have to be unmarried and under 21 years old. The child must prove they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. A state court must also declare the child as a dependent of the court.