This week I interviewed Susan Watson, an energetic attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) which has offices in Weslaco, Edinburg, and Harlingen.
Braune: Your work has brought you into contact with special undocumented youth being detained by the government, “unaccompanied minors.” I suppose that means they came to this country by themselves. They sound like very brave youth, but they are still youth and must be pretty scared and maybe confused. Could you tell us something about these young people and how you meet up with them?
Watson: Unaccompanied minors (UACs) are children under 18 without legal status and who have no parent or legal guardian present. Of the estimated 8,000 UACs who enter the United States each year, most come from Central America or Mexico. All of the UACs I’ve met come from horrific situations: some are orphaned, sometimes because their parents were killed in gang violence or by military factions; some were abused or abandoned by parents; others lived in abject poverty. They are, indeed, extremely brave: the stories I’ve heard about their lives and their harrowing trips to reach the U.S. include things most of us could never imagine.
We at TRLA first became involved with UACs last year. We were contacted by immigration counsel for several children who were victims of sexual assault in a shelter facility in Nixon, Texas. The children needed representation for civil rights and other claims arising from their treatment there. Because TRLA has a long history of fighting for the poor and the vulnerable, our group was a good choice — and these kids probably are the most vulnerable and least likely to be able to seek justice on their own.
To read the entire interview, click here.