Support for Migrant Teens with Long Road Ahead for Asylum

Surge in minors seeking asylum may delay cases

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There are signs of strong support in Dallas for around 200 migrant teens who’ve arrived at the temporary Dallas Convention Center detention site and nearly 3,000 more who are expected. They will face a very long process for asylum request review.

Along the path the first four busloads of teens followed to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, artist Roberto Marquez set up his easel and a welcome flag. 

He was kept far away from actually speaking to any of the minors but hoped that another busload of them would see him there.

Marquez was once a 15-year-old migrant to the U.S. himself.

“So I took the opportunity to come because I identify with their struggle you know. I was in a real similar situation years back,” Marquez said.

An Oak Cliff barber shop is accepting donations for the migrant teens.

LULAC Leader Hilda Duarte said it has been a very popular drop off spot for people anxious to help.

“We've been receiving phone calls, email, text messages, Facebook postings where the community wants to say, how can we help, how can we participate, what can we do to help the new arrivals,” Duarte said.

She contacted Catholic Charities, one of the agencies contracting with the government to support the minors. But after days of collecting donations, Duarte said Catholic Charities responded Thursday night, saying no supplies are needed at this time.

Duarte said she figures the supplies will be needed on the long road ahead of asylum request review for the minors, which may include foster homes for those without U.S. relatives.

“There is always a way to use it,” Duarte said.

Dallas Immigration attorney Haim Vasquez said the process for these teens may be even slower than it has been in the past because of the surge of minors appearing at the U.S. border.

“We need more judges. We need some kind of restructuring of the process that allows cases to move forward,” Vasquez said.

He urged families that know they have a minor relative currently in U.S. immigration detention to contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement immediately.

 “They will be able to provide the information that is required to create this reunification,” Vasquez said.

Some concerns have been reported about the level of background checks for volunteers who are in contact with the minors.

Actual government and charity employees undergo rigorous screening but questions centered on volunteer screening.

The Red Cross is another agency providing support to the temporary government detention operation.

The Red Cross responded NBC 5's request for an interview with the following:

"While we’re unable to do an interview right now, I can confirm we have trained volunteers, including several bilingual volunteers, supporting FEMA/HHS at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and are not currently recruiting additional volunteers.

All Red Cross disaster volunteers undergo a background check when they become volunteers. As an additional precaution in our work directly with unaccompanied children, the Red Cross is refreshing background checks for staff being recruited for deployments to support FEMA and HHS sheltering operations. Onsite volunteers also have the opportunity to complete a fingerprint check through our government partners. If a worker has an adverse finding during this new background check, the person’s deployment will be stopped immediately or they will be sent home."

“Well, I would hope that the American Red Cross would have a screening process for their volunteers,” Duarte said.

It is a combination of concern and support for the young migrants who hope to one day become permanent U.S. residents, like Roberto Marquez.

“Pretty much the same place but I was trying to do it like 40 years back,” Marquez said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has attacked the Biden Administration response to the surge in minors seeking asylum.

Abbott has scheduled another event in North Texas next week to discuss his concerns.

Information about the Office of Refugee Resettlement can be found here.

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