(HOUSTON) — Houston immigration attorney and former Houston City Council Member Gordon Quan helped answer some basic immigration questions to help us better understand the humanitarian crisis unfolding on our southern border.
Quan says one of the reasons we’ve seen of surge of immigrants trying to enter the U.S. is that unaccompanied children who entered this country illegally were being given a chance to stay with relatives in the U.S. while their cases were processed.
“Rather than being held at government expense, that they would release them to relatives who would take care of them and then bring them back for the hearings,” Quan said.
Has that policy changed now?
“I don’t know if they have changed because I think that they are probably reviewing that policy at this time because of fear that they will not show up for the hearing,” Quan said.
And now, he said, there is a problem of overcrowding.
Quan said that if undocumented immigrants arrive without vaccines or have a contagious disease, the U.S. government tries to deal with that immediately.
“Working with immigration over the years, they have always had doctors on staff and if people become ill or complain about illness they’ve got them medical attention as soon as they could,” Quan said. “I know the ACLU report and the State Bar of Texas did a study as well to make sure that people are treated in a humane manner.”
Quan said most of the children entering America have to be healthy just to be able to survive the dangerous journey from Central America and through Mexico to get to the U.S.
What happens when a person shows up in the U.S. without a passport?
“If they don’t have an entry document, they are subject to being removed immediately,” Quan said.
He says if the undocumented immigrant claims he is fleeing dangerous, life threatening conditions back home and requests asylum in the U.S. his story will be checked out “does this person seem to really have a real story or are they just trying to make up a story.”
He said the process could take about a year and a half because there is a shortage of immigration judges to hear the cases.
Quan added that those immigrants are then released on the honor system to appear in court at a later date. He doesn’t have statistics on how many actually show up.
“I think a large number do appear,” he said. “I mean, the courts have tons of people applying.”
President Obama says he will request emergency funding expected to top $2 billion to address the influx of immigrants as well as additional authority for the department of Homeland Security to speed the return of the unaccompanied children to their countries of origin.