Florida immigrants who face persecution or severe threats if sent back to their countries of origin may seek to pursue political asylum claims when challenging deportation. The policy of separating immigrant parents from their children in detention has unleashed a firestorm of criticism across the country. While no parents want to be separated from their kids, some parents are refusing to sign deportation orders for their children in order to give them a better chance, even when they are denied that opportunity themselves.
In one case, a Guatemalan woman who was separated from her child after arriving in the United States without documents on May 30, 2018, refused to sign an agreement that her son would be deported with her back to Guatemala. She was deported, but her 14-year-old son was sent back to a Florida children's facility. Her decision kept the two separated but gave her child a better chance of achieving legal status in the United States, according to a study analyzing data from federal immigration courts. When children are separated from their parents, they are considered "unaccompanied minors." Under U.S. immigration law, these children may have certain advantages including access to a separate asylum process.
Unaccompanied minors often receive free legal representation and have the opportunity to make their claims in front of an immigration judge if they are denied after an initial hearing. Guatemalan unaccompanied children are more than twice as likely to successfully seek asylum than minors with their parents or adults alone.
The form that the boy's mother refused to sign has since itself been ruled illegal by a federal judge as it could lead parents to unknowingly sign away their children's rights. An immigration lawyer may work with immigrants seeking protection from political persecution, systemic violence or other dangers to pursue a claim for asylum.