What happens to children when they enter the United States seeking refuge?
More than 110,000 children total without parents or adult guardians entered the United States in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020. They came from all over the world and have fled for their lives from violence in their homelands. Most traveled thousands of miles on foot, in make-shift boats or by any means possible to make their way to our country. Click here for more statistics about the children fleeing to our nation.
When these “unaccompanied children” enter the country, they are detained and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. Through the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, the children are housed in juvenile detention facilities operated by licensed child-care agencies.
In these facilities, the children are housed, cared for and given opportunities for education while they await legal proceedings that determine whether they can remain in the U.S. Most children seek “asylum,” which means they must prove they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their homeland. The asylum legal process can take more than four years. Unfortunately, one university study shows the majority of these children do not have attorneys to represent them at their hearings.
What happens when these children turn 18 years old?
When these children turn 18 years old, they are no longer able to remain in juvenile detention facilities. If they have no family with which to live in the U.S., they are transferred to adult detention facilities, which, in the Chicago area, are collar county jails where they might wait for months or more until their hearings.
How Viator House Keeps Young Men Seeking Asylum Out of Immigrant Detention
Br. Michael Gosch, C.S.V., Director of Programs and Housing, receives notice from a juvenile detention facility or a child’s attorney when a young man approaches his 18th birthday in juvenile detention. He and a Viator House case manager interview the young man to see if Viator House can meet his needs. Unfortunately, one study shows that 75-90% of these children do not have attorneys, which are not guaranteed under U.S. law to immigrants facing deportation. https://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/legal-aid-for-unaccompanied-children-in-the-u-s-illegally.aspx
What does Viator House of Hospitality offer?
VHH offers housing, food, clothing, education, case management, spiritual support, advocacy, referrals and volunteer experiences in a safe interfaith environment. We help young men seeking asylum go to school, learn English, find jobs, adapt to American culture, and develop their gifts and skills so they can contribute to our nation. At VHH they live together, share chores, build friendships, support one another while attending school and/or working. VHH can welcome 25 young men.
How long will a typical stay at Viator House of Hospitality be?
A young man can live at VHH until he can thrive on his own or finds members of his family to live with. Due to lengthy delays in our asylum system, a young man may wait 5 years for his proceedings.
Learn more about U.S. immigration policy, the lives of immigrants in our nation, and groups that study, serve or advocate for them by reading the articles and reviewing the websites below. Let them guide your efforts to become an immigrant advocate.
Viator House In The News
Bethany House of Hospitality, Our Sister Program For Young Women Seeking Asylum
Some Roots Of The Migration Crisis
The Asylum System Explained
The Cost Of Keeping An Asylum-Seeker In Detention
(In contrast, it costs Viator House $90 a day to provide housing, food and case management for one participant.)
Immigration Advocacy & Research
Most Viator House participants arrived in the U.S. as minors without adults. Read more here about the system they encountered when they arrived.