Where Are the Children?

This feature piece shines a light on role of civil legal aid and immigration advocates for kids and families in detention.

Feature (NATIONAL)

Sarah Stillman
New Yorker
April 20, 2015
Link to story

Tags: Children & Juvenile, Immigration Process

Organizations mentioned/involved: RAICES (Texas), Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), American Gateways (Austin, TX), Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) (Miami)


“The whole hielera system shook me to my core,” Jonathan Ryan, the executive director of RAICES, a nonprofit organization that provides civil legal aid to immigrant kids and families, told me. His staff of attorneys have offered advice to thousands of unaccompanied kids in nonprofit shelters across Texas, as well as to thousands more at Lackland Air Force Base, where migrant children slept in barracks last spring after shelters overflowed.

Last June, five immigrants’-rights groups across the country filed an official complaint on behalf of a hundred and sixteen children alleging mistreatment in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody—from sexual assault or physical abuse (reported by a quarter of the kids) to inadequate food and water (reported by eighty per cent). The nonprofit shelters often seem like a big improvement. Alfredo called Detective Acosta, in Trenton, and pleaded with him to intervene. The children were transferred to a shelter operated by a nonprofit government contractor, Southwest Key Programs.