August 8, 2007
Unaccompanied Alien Children in Immigration Proceedings
In FY 2006, nearly 8,000 “Unaccompanied Alien Children” came to the United States. They are persons, under the age of 18, who have no lawful immigration status in the United States and have no parent or legal guardian in the United States to provide care. They may be orphans, sent by their families to seek work, or running away from poverty and/or abuse. They may also be victims of trafficking into this country. Others may have parents or other family members who have settled in the United States and have sent for them.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has jurisdiction over the apprehension and repatriation of Unaccompanied Alien Children, while the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), has jurisdiction over their care and custody.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has jurisdiction to administer hearings in immigration court for Unaccompanied Alien Children to provide them the full due process that the law accords.
Challenges in Adjudicating Unaccompanied Alien
Cases are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, and may result in relief from removal, voluntary departure, or removal orders. EOIR is committed to ensuring fairness in all cases, and understands the importance of being sensitive to this especially vulnerable population.
EOIR has implemented guidelines that provide guidance and suggestions for adjudicating cases involving Unaccompanied Alien Children. The guidelines advise immigration judges regarding fostering child-friendly court settings and procedures, including:
These guidelines also encourage immigration judges to use appropriate pro bono resources whenever a child respondent is not represented.
The "Guidelines for Immigration Court Cases Involving Unaccompanied Alien Children (07-01)," found at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/efoia/ocij/OPPMLG2.htm, replaces the 2004 interim guidelines.
Currently, there are at least nine court locations that have juvenile dockets for Unaccompanied Alien Children –– Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, CA; Miami, FL; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; and Harlingen and Houston, TX. The immigration judges and court administrators at these locations work hard to ensure the well-being of the children, as well as the efficient and effective handling of juvenile docket cases. They meet with representatives of the private bar, DHS, and ORR on an ongoing basis.
EOIR works with ORR and a number of non-governmental organizations to identify children in need of legal services and facilitate pro bono assistance for them nationwide. These partnership efforts help provide basic legal programs to the majority of children in government custody.
Legal Orientation Program
–– EOIR ––
EOIR is responsible for adjudicating immigration cases. Specifically, under delegated authority from the Attorney General, EOIR interprets and administers federal immigration laws by conducting immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings. EOIR consists of three components: the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, which is responsible for managing the numerous immigration courts located throughout the United States where immigration judges adjudicate individual cases; the Board of Immigration Appeals, which primarily conducts appellate reviews of immigration judge decisions; and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, which adjudicates immigration-related employment cases. EOIR is committed to providing fair, expeditious, and uniform application of the nation's immigration laws in all cases. Information about EOIR immigration proceedings is available on EOIR’s website http://www.usdoj/gov/eoir/press/subject.htm.