Putting TRAC to Work
  Legal and Scholarly
Center for Latin American & Latino Studies, American University, Washington DC
November 2014

Unaccompanied Minor Children from Central America
By Dennis Stinchcomb and Eric Hershberg

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 mandates that ORR develop a plan to ensure that children in ORR custody have access to legal representation, though counsel is not guaranteed at government expense. Because of that mandate, children who remain in ORR custody have typically had higher rates of representation than those released to sponsor care. A review by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of 100,000 juvenile cases in immigration courts between 2005 and June 2014 demonstrates how crucial legal representation is to a child’s chances of remaining in the U.S. According to the study, 90 percent of children appearing without an attorney were ordered to leave the U.S., 77 percent through a removal order and 13 percent through a voluntary departure order. With an attorney, however, a child’s odds of remaining in the U.S. increased from 10 percent to nearly 50 percent. The study also found that despite widespread recognition of the importance of legal representation, as of June 30 only 31 percent of juveniles with pending cases in immigration courts have been able to secure an attorney. While significant strides have been made in the creation of a pro bono movement of law firms providing quality legal counsel to these children, the resources are simply insufficient to meet the demand posed by nearly 70,000 UAC referrals in a single year.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2014
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