Teen Immigrants Await Fate at an Oklahoma Army Post

Report from Ft. Sill, Oklahoma that includes interview with Jonathan Ryan, executive director of Raices, which serves immigrant children.

News Story (INTERNATIONAL, Oklahoma)

Liz Goodwin
Yahoo! News
July 11, 2014
Link to story

Tags: Children & Juvenile, Immigration Process, Language Access


But the nearly 1,200 teenagers detained on this military base on the dusty plains of southern Oklahoma aren’t likely to realize those dreams any time soon.  They are awaiting deportation hearings after having crossed the border on their own, unaccompanied by adults, fleeing their violence-torn home countries in Central America. The Obama administration says that most of them will be deported as soon as the backlogged immigration courts get around to hearing their cases.
Oklahoma’s politicians have blamed the crisis on Obama, who’s asked for nearly $4 billion from Congress to process the influx of children and prevent more from coming. Reps. Tom Cole and Jim Bridenstine, both Republicans, say Obama’s deferred action program that offers some protections to youth living long-term and unlawfully in the country has encouraged the children to come. The Obama administration says the escalating gang violence in Central American countries have driven families and children to desperation. Honduras, for example, is now the most dangerous country in the world. Immigrant advocates, meanwhile, say the children should be granted asylum and allowed to stay.

The children are unaware that they’ve become the center of a heated political battle, according to Jonathan Ryan, the executive director of the group Raices, which provides them with legal counsel.

“The kids are not political animals,” he said. Ryan’s group gives the unaccompanied minors “know your rights” presentations on the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He’s always peppered with questions once he’s done talking.

“They ask when they’re going to get out of there,” he said. “‘How can I get out? What’s going to happen to me? Am I going to have to go back?’”