This Is the Wildly Complicated Application for Asylum

For the unaccompanied minors at the border, escaping to the United States may not be the hardest part.

Sineage stands on the American side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence during a special 'Mass on the Border' on April 1, 2014 in Nogales, Arizona.
National Journal
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Rachel Roubein
July 16, 2014, 1 a.m.

An in­flux of chil­dren flee­ing Cent­ral Amer­ica’s North­ern Tri­angle are seek­ing safety in the United States from bru­tal­ity, blood­shed, and eco­nom­ic dis­par­it­ies in their home coun­try.

But once the dan­ger­ous jour­ney is com­plete, the pro­cess of re­ceiv­ing per­mis­sion to stay in the U.S. isn’t so easy, ad­voc­ates say, be­gin­ning with an ap­plic­a­tion that must be com­pleted in Eng­lish. Be­cause im­mig­ra­tion at­tor­neys provid­ing ser­vices to un­ac­com­pan­ied minors are stretched thin, the ma­jor­ity of chil­dren go without leg­al coun­sel, ac­cord­ing to Kristen Jack­son, who has rep­res­en­ted chil­dren through her work at the Pub­lic Coun­sel, a Cali­for­nia-based pro bono law firm, for the past dec­ade.

“It’s really com­plex,” Jack­son said, “and when you take a look at the form, you see why many un­rep­res­en­ted people can’t even get over the first hurdle, which is to fill out the ap­plic­a­tion it­self.”

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