California and two other states operate shelter programs designed for unaccompanied minors who have immigrated to the United States. These shelters are contracted by the federal government. The shelters are available for these children 24 hours a day and are designed to support the children for the entire time that they stay there. Sometimes the children stay there for three or four months until families or sponsors for the children can be located.
The legal process for determining what to do with these children can sometimes last years. The immigration proceedings are often complex and involve agencies with differing agendas. As one can imagine, the cost of care for these children is enormous. The unaccompanied minors program will cost $868 million in 2014. Ignoring this problem would place these children at enormous risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
While border apprehensions for all immigrants have decreased since 2006, this is not the case when it comes to immigrant children. The U.S. border patrol reportedly detained 38,833 unaccompanied children in the fiscal year of 2013. These children are usually then transferred to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Some of these children may then be detained in federal detention centers or turned over to shelters operated by the government.
The goal for many attorneys is to come up with strategies to keep immigrant families together. As the above data demonstrates, immigration policy in the United States has not always been successful in doing this. Attorneys can come up with a number of legal options for immigrant parents so that their families are not torn apart or completely lose track of each other.
Source: Borderzine, "Caring for thousands of children crossing illegally into the U.S. to cost $868 million in 2014," Hecko Flores, , June 4, 2014