unaccompanied

NC: Momentum builds to support unaccompanied immigrant children

On December 3, 2014, the Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution supporting and welcoming unaccompanied immigrant minors fleeing violence in their home countries.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously voiced their support Monday night December 1 for giving unaccompanied child refugees equal access to education, health care and protection under the law.

Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen passed a similar resolution November 18 in response to the wave of unaccompanied Central American children fleeing crime, violence and extreme poverty this year.

“We are hopeful that this wave of success will build momentum throughout North Carolina for welcoming these most vulnerable children,” said SCSJ staff attorney George Eppsteiner.

Background on unaccompanied minors (from the Chapel Hill News):

Unaccompanied children taken into custody by U.S. Customs are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the department, there are currently 55,230 children in this status in the United States.

In the Triangle, Wake County has 250 such children; Durham, 215. Orange County reports fewer than 50… The children – many younger than 13 – don’t have an attorney representing them in court, but the government does.

The recent wave of immigrant-welcoming resolutions is in part a reaction to other counties, including Rowan, Surry and Brunswick, that previously passed resolutions to discourage undocumented and immigrant children from attending their local schools.

SCSJ’s George Eppsteiner argues that such policies denying children an education because of their immigration status are constitutional, said attorney George Eppsteiner, with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. In June 1982, the Supreme Court issued Plyler v. Doe, a landmark decision holding that states cannot constitutionally deny students a free public education on account of their immigration status.

SCSJ applauds the efforts of Carrboro, Orange County, and Chapel Hill to welcome immigrant children and provide their constitutionally guaranteed public education,” said Eppsteiner. “We are available to provide technical assistance to other municipalities wishing to pass similar resolutions.”