Carlos* is an unaccompanied child who came to the U.S. from Honduras. JFCS began providing legal representation to him in December 2021, when he was 17 years old. Even though Carlos was born in Honduras, he did not have a birth certificate or any other documentation to indicate his nationality. In legal terms, he was a person without a country.
Carlos’s mother, Maria, is an agricultural worker from Nicaragua who was working across the border in Honduras at the time he was born. In addition to being an area that is rich in farmland, the border region is heavily patrolled by military members who brutally abuse their power. Both Carlos and his older brother, Luis, were conceived through abusive relationships. Carlos’s father was a soldier, and Maria feared retaliation if she tried to force him to recognize Carlos as his son. As a result, neither boy had any documentation of having a father.
Carlos attended school in Honduras through sixth grade, but because he did not have a registered identity with the government, there are no records of his schooling. Eventually, he went to work in the fields alongside his mother. By the time Carlos was a teenager, Luis had already crossed the border. Because Luis was undocumented, he was jailed for 14 months, and the U.S. government tried to deport him. However, Honduras refused to recognize him as a citizen, and he was eventually allowed to remain in the U.S. and received a work permit.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Carlos crossed the border in search of a better life. He was taken into custody and eventually became a client of JFCS. Without documentation of his nationality, JFCS faced an uphill battle in representing him. Because he was still a minor, his attorney helped him apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. This involved appearing in Family Court, for which JFCS provided representation. His brother Luis was named as his guardian and he was released into his custody. Now both brothers are living in the southern U.S., waiting to see if Carlos’s SIJ status is approved, which will give him a path to receiving a green card. Without representation from JFCS, instead of reuniting with his brother, Carlos would likely be imprisoned and vulnerable to deportation.
*Names have been changed.