Dozens of the cases my office handles are of young children fleeing death threats and violence from gangs. I represented an eight-year-old boy who journeyed by himself from El Salvador after criminals drove his family from their home and threatened them with death. While the journey to the U.S. is a dangerous one in which kids are often abused — or worse — this boy’s mother knew that it was a better option for her son than remaining in his home country. I also represented a mother who finally escaped with her special-needs son from a lifetime of abuse by a violent partner who would not stop hunting her down were she to remain in her country.
Despite the horrific nature of the danger these children flee, they continue to face an uphill battle in finding protection in the United States. International law requires that a refugee not be returned to the country in which they fear harm; yet rather than carefully screening each child for credible fears, the U.S. government’s response has largely failed to ensure that such protection is given.