The legal process of seeking to stay in America will likely begin in the first few days that thousands of teenage boys arrive in Dallas. But when it comes to seeking asylum, legal experts say the odds are not in their favor.
“The law is set against these folks, even those who come in and apply, if they are from Central America their chances of success are like one to two percent,” said immigration attorney Josh Turin.
Turin says the historical difficulty of the process combined with recent changes led by the Trump Administration, make it almost impossible for refugees from Latin American countries to be granted asylum. In order to be granted asylum, a refugee has to prove past or imminent persecution and current laws preclude criminal organizations such as gangs from this definition. In Central American countries like Honduras and El Salvador, it is criminal violence that is the primary driver of the refugee crisis.
However, Turin says many of the teenage boys in Dallas may be able to become American residents another way.
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“If you are under 18, they can try and get a guardianship from Texas family court and argue they have been abandoned by at least one of their parents,” said Turin.
Either way, it is likely to be a year’s long process that people like Joahna Cerrato know all too well. Cerrato first made it to America in 2012 and spent eight years presenting her case for asylum before clerical error led to a missed court date and her immediate deportation.
“Tell your husband to look for a good lawyer,” Cerrato recalls the immigration agent telling her. “Because you are now arrested and you will be deported.”
Cerrato made it back to Texas this year and has now restarted the process with even lower odds of success due to her prior deportation.