CABA Pro Bono Project, Inc., (CABA Pro Bono) has expanded its free legal services to serve the younger immigrant population in Miami, Florida.  A majority of the children in our program are between the ages of 10-18 years old.  These children often times face a grueling journey to the United States from their country of origin, either alone, or with a relative or a coyote.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

By definition, An unaccompanied immigrant child (UIC) refers to “a child who has no lawful immigration status in the United States, is under 18 years of age, and has no parent or legal guardian in the country present or available to provide care and physical custody.”  While UICs come to the U.S. from all parts of the world, between 73 and 75 percent of unaccompanied children are from Central America.  In 2009, approximately 80 percent of the UICs were between 15 and 18 years old.

Most of the UICs aspire to escape the overwhelming poverty in Central American

Countries, and aim to find a better life in the U.S.  A majority of the children are boys because travel is safer for them than it is for girls, but our program has seen an increase in travel by girls.  Some families send their young girls to the U.S. to flee the risk of sexual abuse by gang members who have a vendetta against the girls’ brothers or other male family members for rejecting gang membership.  A majority of UICs attempt to escape their countries of origin because they have been subjected to gang violence, human trafficking, and/or child abuse and neglect.

The Journey

Most of the children in our program may have paid a smuggler, also referred to as a coyote, to help them cross the U.S. border.  While some are hidden by traffickers or smugglers, others attempt the journey entirely alone.  UICs typically attempt the journey with little if any money and they spend weeks or months trekking through rough terrains and deserts.  Many children are fortunate enough to travel by bus, but some children are less fortunate and travel days on the roof of a train that stops close to the U.S.-Mexico border.  The UICs who risk riding on the roof of the train also face the added dangers of losing limbs, being kidnapped by drug cartels, being robbed or beaten by gangs, and even dying. Unfortunately, many of the children are victimized during their journey, or even upon arriving to the U.S.  Once in the U.S., some children are victims of crimes including being taken advantage of by individuals they trust through exploitation and sex or labor trafficking.

Navigating the Legal System

Upon arrival, they are faced with the challenges of representing themselves because these children are not provided with free counsel.  It is practically impossible for these children to navigate the legal process without the assistance of an attorney.  As a result of the need for free legal service within this vulnerable population; CABA Pro Bono addresses the need for increased access to free legal counsel.

If you know a child who is an Unaccompanied Immigrant Child and needs free legal assistance.  Please contact us at yesenia@cabaprobono.com or at 305-615-1533.