For Unaccompanied Children, Immigration Legal Representation Matters
Hanne Sandison and Kim Boche spoke recently at a fundraiser in support of our immigration
legal services work. Hanne Sandison directs The Advocates' Refugee &
Immigrant Program and attorney Kim Boche represents unaccompanied children
living in the Upper Midwest who are navigating the immigration system.
Sandison began the program.
Good evening! It's so wonderful to see you all here in person and to both celebrate the
our program is doing on behalf of child migrants and to
discuss the ongoing needs
our clients face.
One of our core beliefs at The Advocates
is rooted in the Refugee Convention: that no one should
be deported to face persecution,
torture, or human rights violations. The right to seek
safety in another country from violence in your own is a core and necessary
And while, on paper, our country agrees and has made a commitment to ensuring that right is a reality, its actions and practices tell a different story.
Recently, the Biden administration published its proposed changes to federal regulations that would eviscerate access to asylum and betray our commitment not to deport anyone to face persecution, torture, or a human rights violation. The problem is federal - but it's also local.
You may have seen the recent frontpage article in The New York Times, reporting on the proliferation of immigrant
child labor in the United States and calling out the illegal employment of
immigrant children in dangerous jobs unfit for
children. This is happening across the United States,
including right here in Minnesota, in some of the most dangerous jobs,
including meatpacking. High-profile
investigations into child labor illustrate the peril people face
when our immigration laws continue to exclude and expel, rather than create
real options for people to migrate with dignity and in
We face real problems, but we are
dedicated to pursuing real solutions to those problems,
with our clients at the center. I'd
like to turn it over to Kim Boche to share more about our program's work with
child migrants. Kim is a staff attorney handling our more
than 150 cases for unaccompanied children in Minnesota,
North Dakota, and South Dakota. Kim represents
clients themself, supports pro bono attorneys who represent children, and works
and implement creative solutions for how to meet this
growing need. Please welcome Kim.
Kim Boche continued.
I want each
of you to take a breath
have to close your eyes, but you can if you like.
Take a moment to remember being a child. When you were
scared, what place or person made you feel safe?
What provided you
a sense of warmth and security?
Many of my clients have little
with that warmth. From October 2022 to March 2023
Minnesota saw over 700 unaccompanied kids,
kids who come to the United States without their parents, join
our community. Last year, we saw over 1,000new faces.
The year before that, another 1,000. Many of them have come
to live in Hennepin and Ramsey counties,
but these kids are living in communities around
Statistically speaking, half
living with siblings or close relatives, and
about thirty-five percent with a
parent or legal guardian. Just
over sixty percent of these kids are boys. About
fifty-five percent are 15, 16, or
years old. That means the
rest - more than 1000 newly arrived kiddos - are age 14 or younger. Almost
half are from Guatemala, with others from
Honduras and El
Salvador. Many are fleeing their homes because of safety and security.
Often kids have
experienced serious human rights abuses: a
of food, water, or shelter; forced displacement or
gang violence; threats of physical and sexual violence or murder. They make a
trip thousands of miles, vulnerable to exploitation, violence, often separated
from their family and care givers. They show up in our schools, parks,
churches, and in our immigration courts
not knowing English and not knowing that we have laws on the books that
are meant to protect them.
And the tragic reality
is that our immigration system is failing these children.
2700 kids who've arrived in
Minnesota in the last few years
placed in removal proceedings. They face a
deportation hearing in front of an immigration judge. And
because there is no right to government-appointed counsel in immigration
hearings, in most cases, they face it alone.
Like grownups in immigration court, kids
bear the burden of proving they should not be
kids may have real legal
an attorney, a child has virtually
these options, let alone filing all the right forms
in English, making the legal arguments, and providing
all the evidence needed.
if they have an attorney,
a child is seven times more likely to win their
case and stay in the United States.
The Advocates for Human Rights is
dedicated to training lawyers to be those attorneys. Our pro bono model allows
us to expand our reach so that kids in our community
not face our justice system alone and ultimately so they can
Your donations allow us to train more attorneys, to make sure children are
represented, and ultimately to
put a stop to a cycle of trauma many migrant children are all too familiar
we help children stay in safer
to go to school and learn instead of working to survive,
experience that warm feeling we know as safety. So thank you all for being here tonight.
You can help.
Donate now to support The Advocates for Human Rights' legal representation work.
Volunteer to provide Pro Bono Representation to unaccompanied children and others in need of immigration legal help.