POLITICS

Little hope seen for child migrants without lawyers trying to remain in U.S.

Newly released government data shows the trouble that child migrants from Central America have when seeking relief from U.S. immigration courts without the help of a lawyer.

Since the surge of child migrants began flooding over the U.S.-Mexico border last summer, only 352 child migrants have succeeded in having their removal proceedings stopped or administratively closed – a step toward asylum or special immigrant juvenile status – while 4,711 children without counsel were ordered removed or compelled to accept voluntary departure, according to a report by Politico.

On the other hand, 2,459 children with legal counsel succeeded in having their removal proceedings terminated or administratively closed – seven times the number of those without legal representation. Only 1,096 of the child migrants with lawyers were ordered removed or took voluntary departure, or just a little less than a quarter of the total for child migrants without legal representation ordered out of the country.

Authorities were overwhelmed last year with an influx of unaccompanied minors and families with children last year. More than 68,000 youths from mostly Central America crossed the border without a parent last fiscal year.

But the numbers have tapered off, and authorities expect fewer migrants this summer.

Immigrant advocates have been critical of the government's response, saying most of the children were fleeing extreme violence and threats and should have been granted asylum.

"The federal government's response to the large influx of Central American children coming in has been nothing short of a policy that undermines our basic humanitarian and asylum laws," said Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

A study released by the non-partisan, nonprofit Migration Policy Institute found increased enforcement by the governments of the U.S., Mexico and some Central American countries has slowed the influx. For example, Mexican authorities apprehended 22,000 Central American children in the first 11 months of 2014. That's almost three times as many as in all of 2013.

The United States also stepped up enforcement, sending more Border Patrol agents to south Texas, where the vast majority of children and families crossed. The government began detaining families seeking asylum and opened several facilities for detaining families with children, some temporary. A federal judge in February issued a preliminary injunction against the policy of detaining families who seek asylum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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