Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Child Navigating through an Impossible System All Alone: Disparity in Treatment between Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) and Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)
by Jeon, Ra Hee, LL.M., Regent University, 2017, 112; 10277040
Abstract (Summary)

Unaccompanied orphans are the most vulnerable population, whose sociological, psychological, and legal needs have been far from being met. There are two types of unaccompanied orphans: Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) and Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC). Even though both URM and UAC are unaccompanied minors, one group enjoys protection as a legal resident, while the other is treated as an undocumented alien.

Most of URM are brought from overseas to the United States through the State Department program, which grants these children a resettlement in the U.S. due to the lack of long-term care. However, there is a small group that composes only 2.3% of the URM population: the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who entered the U.S. by themselves and whose asylum applications are approved the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This paper focuses exclusively on this small number of children: UAC Orphans Asylum Applicants, in short UOAA.

The exact number of UOAA is not known. However, UOAA compose of children who fall into two groups. First intersection group is the UAC filing for asylum. In FYs 2011-2013, a total of 1,800 UAC filed for Asylum, resulting in about 300 approvals. On average, that is 600 UAC filing for asylum each year once arriving in the U.S. The second intersection group is UAC orphans. In FY 2014, 96% of UAC were released to parents, guardians, or relatives in the U.S. That leaves 4% of UAC in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), without being united with families. In FY 2014, 4% of UAC in the ORR custody accounted for 2,320 orphans. In other words, while the majority of UAC are released to parents or legal guardians or relatives in the U.S., there are several thousand orphans who do not have any parent, legal guardian, or relatives in the United States.

Whether reunified with family member or not, there is no legal term for an unaccompanied child who is orphaned in the U.S. and filing the asylum application on her own. This amorphous group simply marks the intersection of two groups above. Thus, it is hard to numerically ascertain exactly how many children fall into both groups, one thing is certain. There is a limited number of children who fall into the intersection group, which this paper designate these children as “Unaccompanied Orphan Asylum Applicants” (UOAA).

When the UOAA’s asylum application is approved, the child can receive care as an URM, who has full access to a state’s foster care system. However, the current United States immigration law fails to sufficiently guarantee protection for UOAA during the asylum process, and it fails to address special problems inherent for unaccompanied minors.

As a solution, this thesis proposes ways that the United States can improve its procedural system and revise substantive law to better guarantee and protect the rights of these children, who are fleeing from persecution and have no parents or guardians in the U.S. Procedurally, the United States should adopt some of the European Union’s UAC policy to comply with the international principles consistent with the Best Interests of Child standard. The policy can be divided into three stages: (1) at the entrance on the border; (2) while in the U.S. and in the court system; and (3) at the removal procedure. Substantively, the United States should revise the Immigration and Nationality Act’s refugee definition for UAC orphans who are fleeing from the gang violence in Central America, so that UOAA can access fair opportunity in the American immigration system.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Magee, Bill
Commitee: Anjo, Julie, McKee, Kathleen A.
School: Regent University
Department: School of Law
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: MAI 56/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Law, International law
Keywords: European Union asylum, Gang asylum, Immigration law, Unaccompanied alien children, Unaccompanied children, Unaccompanied refugee minors
Publication Number: 10277040
ISBN: 9781369771473
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