Family Members of Unaccompanied Minors Offer Fingerprints In Hopes of Reuniting

Family Members of Unaccompanied Minors Offer Fingerprints In Hopes of Reuniting

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

Family members of illegal children crossing the border alone are coming forward. They are offering their fingerprints in hopes of reuniting with loved ones.

In about nine months, close to 60,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border. As they wait to see a judge, with the hopes of being granted asylum, some get the opportunity to wait with family.

When undocumented immigrants cross the border, they are immediately placed into removal proceedings and sent to a shelter. Some are offered an alternative.

"If they have a family member here, that means that the federal government doesn't have to house or pay to house these child immigrants while they're here in the United States awaiting their court hearing," Immigration Lawyer, Daniel Caudillo, said.

Family members are offering their fingerprints and birth certificates to help identify their relationship. Once the information is sent to Washington and verified, a background check is also conducted.

"You don't want to send a child with an uncle who is not fit to be a parent to a niece or nephew," Caudillo said.

Post-approval, the child can stay with family until they are called before a judge. They will then present their case to the court.

Many who cross from Central America are seeking asylum in the United States or credible fear.

"They at least need the fair opportunity to make that claim. That's all that we're asking for. So if they're not going to be given a fair chance in a five minute interview in front of their child where they can't freely speak of their claim then that's not due process," Caudillo said.

In the shelters, immigrants are presented with a 'Know Your Rights' program, which explains their rights in front of the immigration courts. But some worry that it explains a subject even professionals have trouble understanding.

"It's beyond me to expect someone to learn in a 20 minute presentation what many attorneys are unwilling to do because of its complexity. Asylum Law is one of the most difficult areas of immigration law," Caudillo said.

ICE officials tell NewsWest 9, every immigrant does get the opportunity to speak with a lawyer, even via teleconference.

In our tour of the federal detention facility in Artesia, NewsWest 9 learned that only about five percent of those undocumented immigrants get to remain in the United States.