How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A look inside immigration court for children

Immigration court sketch 3 b&w

Graham Clark

A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles earlier this week.

Immigration court sketch 2

Graham Clark

A teen girl from Guatemala appeared in immigration court. No translator could be provided to speak her preferred language, a Mayan dialect.

Immigration court sketch 1

Graham Clark

A 17 year-old boy appeared in immigration court, requesting to be deported to Mexico.


A couple of times a week, on the high floors of a bank building near Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles, immigration judges hear the cases of children and teens.

The juvenile court dockets within the already strained federal immigration court system have become increasingly busy lately, as more children and teens from Central America have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border solo or with family members. And in Los Angeles, where many of these kids are reunited with relatives within the region's large Central American community, it's not hard to get a sense of the demand.
 
There are two juvenile immigration court dockets in Los Angeles per week, one for detained children still in federal custody, the other for kids who have been released to family members.

One recent Thursday morning, attorney Kristen Jackson of Public Counsel, which represents some juvenile clients, studied the docket list posted outside the courtroom: 24 kids, all but one from Central America. She recalled how the released kids' docket didn't exist in Los Angeles until about five years ago.

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Local Cambodians give testimony, await Khmer Rouge verdict

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime at a 2010 workshop in Long Beach. They learned how to submit written testimony to the war cimes tribunal in Cambodia currently prosecuting former high-level Khmer Rouge officials.

Khmer rouge ruling

ASRIC/Vanta El

Chanthan Pich, 73, contributed written testimony to the war cimes tribunal. She lost 17 family members during the four-year-long reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Khmer Rouge ruling

Josie Huang/KPCC

Roth Prom of Long Beach submitted testimony to the war tribunal. She said she has a lot of pent-up anger, and did not hesitate to participate.


Thirty-five years after the Khmer Rouge regime terrorized Cambodia, judgements are coming for two former senior officials charged with war crimes, and Chanthan Pich doesn't want to hear anything but "guilty" verdicts.

"Not guilty, no justice," Pich, 73, said.

Pich, part of Long Beach's Cambodian community, is deeply invested in the Aug. 7 court outcome. She is among thousands of Cambodians who started over in the U.S. after surviving Maoist-style Communist rule that left nearly two million people dead through starvation, disease, torture and execution.

She is also one of nearly 200 survivors in the U.S. who submitted written testimony to assist prosecutors in the U.N.-backed tribunal.

Some fellow survivors found it too painful to dredge up the memories needed to file their statements. There are those too disgusted with a court process that’s been plagued by delays and charges of corruption. Still others worry about retribution being visited on relatives in Cambodia if they gave their accounts on the record. Some former Khmer Rouge members are leaders within the current government.

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In immigration news: Congress split over migrant children, Jeb Bush's op-ed, con artists target migrant kids' families, American-born gangs, more

Jeb Bush Testifies At House Hearing On Free Enterprise And Economic Growth

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush testifies before a House committee. The potential presidential candidate is urging fellow Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

To Cope With Child Immigrants, Competing Plans Emerge From Congress - NPR The Republican-led House and Democratic-dominated Senate are not surprisingly split over how to handle the influx of child migrants at the border. The House is concentrating on changing a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that makes it difficult to immediately deport anyone from a non-contiguous country (most of these children are coming from Central America.) Senate Democrats are standing firm on keeping the law as is, saying these children deserve a chance to seek asylum. But both the House and Senate plan on giving the president less money than the $3.7 million he's requested.

Scam targets families of migrant youths - Dallas Morning News According to the FBI, swindlers have obtained details about migrant children being held at military bases in Texas and Oklahoma and are using it to try and extort up to several thousand dollars from their families. From the story: "Cases of the fraud have been reported in 12 states so far, from New York to California, with the con artists seeking $350 to $6,000 in so-called fees, the FBI says."

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In immigration news: More young children at the border, controversy over migrant youth shelter, border crisis vs. executive action, more

Children detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas.

Eric Gay/AP

Child detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. According to a new analysis of government data, the share of unaccompanied minor children 12 and younger arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has jumped from 9 percent in 2013 to 16 percent this year so far.

On Immigration, America's Concerns Are Fiery But Fleeting - NPR In a recently released Gallup poll, 17 percent of respondents named  immigration as "America's most pressing issue, narrowly topping concerns that weigh more consistently on the nation's mindset, like jobs and political leadership." It was a jump from the 5 percent who said the same thing in June, before the story of unaccompanied migrant youths at the border became national news. But the polling reflects past political flare-ups over immigration.

Report: More kids 12 and under arriving at US-Mexico border - Southern California Public Radio An analysis of government data shows that the share of unaccompanied children 12 and younger arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border is on the rise: "In fiscal year 2013, which ended last Sept. 30, nine percent of unaccompanied child migrants were 12 and younger; since last October through the end of May, 16 percent were 12 and younger."

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Report: More kids 12 and under arriving at US-Mexico border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A poster that is part of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection information campaign targeted at countries where a lot of minors traveling to the U.S. originate. It translates to: “I thought it would be easy for my son to get his papers in the North. That wasn’t true.” According to a new analysis of government data, the share of children 12 and younger making the journey has increased.

The share of young children children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on their own has gone up, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center.

A tally of government data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act shows that more kids 12 and under are being apprehended as unaccompanied minors - many of them fleeing violence in Central America - continue to make the journey to the United States.

In fiscal year 2013, which ended last Sept. 30, nine percent of unaccompanied child migrants were 12 and younger; since last October through the end of May, 16 percent were 12 and younger. From the report:

The new data show a 117% increase in the number of unaccompanied children ages 12 and younger caught at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year compared with last fiscal year. By comparison, the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied teenagers ages 13-17 has increased by only 12% over the same time period.

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