Refugee Children Face Test in Dallas Immigration Court

"The unaccompanied minors in the Dallas courtroom are all from Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras — where violence, poverty and false beliefs that U.S. authorities treat minors leniently have fueled the crisis at the border.  Across the nation’s immigration courts, children show up without lawyers more than half the time, according to a recent report by TRAC, which looked at 100,000 juvenile cases since 2005.  This makes a huge difference.  In about half of the cases in which juveniles have an attorney, the court has allowed them to stay in the U.S., according to the data.  In cases in which juveniles did not have a lawyer, 9 out of 10 were ordered deported. For children from Central America, a deportation order can mean returning to violence or even death in their birth country, said Paul Zoltan, a Dallas immigration attorney.  Recently, Zoltan represented a teen from El Salvador applying for a special immigrant juvenile status.  The boy’s father abandoned him a few months after his birth, which made the boy more vulnerable to gangs.  He left home to live with an aunt in Texas.  “Like so many others like him, he was sent north because he was either going to become predator or prey,” Zoltan said." - DIANNE SOLÍS and DAVID TARRANT, July 19, 2014.

Immigration attorney Paul Zoltan, with portraits of his Hungarian great-grandparents in his office, says his teen client would have become a “predator or prey” in El Salvador.  Photo by Rex C. Curry.