Undocumented children making first appearances in Atlanta courts - CBS46 News

Undocumented children making first appearances in Atlanta courts

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The immigration court in Atlanta is starting to see more and more children in their courtroom as they arrive from Mexico and Central America.

The numbers for the increase of undocumented youth crossing into the United States is estimated at more than 50,000 since October.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement have always had hearings for undocumented youth, but attorneys we spoke to say the problem is getting worse in immigration courts across the country and in Atlanta.

"It is a humanitarian crisis," Edmundo Rogers said. Rogers is representing a Guatemalan mother, Secilia Mendoza-Alcon, who he just met Wednesday morning outside the immigration court in downtown Atlanta. He drove in from Florida to help with her case.

"A lot of these people are leaving these countries because of poverty and internal strife," Rogers said. "It has been going on for a while. It has been exacerbated because a worse economy in a lot of these countries."

We spoke to Alcon about her journey from Guatemala into the United States.

She told CBS46's Mike Paluska in Spanish it was very bad and difficult on the children. She said she decided to take the risk because the economy is so bad in Guatemala that they don't have any jobs or money to buy food.

Her son Hugo, 12, said he was happy to be in the United States because he wasn't hungry anymore. He said he is worried they will be deported back to Guatemala.

His sister Marlene, 10, said she is happy to be in the United States and wants to work to support the family.

"We don't want to go back to Guatemala," Marlene said in Spanish. "I am scared they will send us back."

Rogers said there are no guarantees for the family and each case is different. Each family member was given a notice to appear. Rogers said that is like a summons to start the deportation process.

In 2012, President Barack Obama initiated an executive order to stop the deportation of some immigrant children living in the United States. Rogers said that order does not protect children crossing the border illegally.

"That executive order is not as broad as people are trying to make it seem. It was limited to a narrow amount of physical presence in the United States and a narrow amount of children," Rogers said.

The immigration court in Atlanta hears juvenile cases weekly. On Wednesday, there was a large group of nearly a dozen immigrant children waiting to see a judge. At some point, that same judge will decide whether they stay or go.

Alcon said if she is deported, she will return to the U.S.

"There is nothing for us in Guatemala," Alcon said. "I want to stay here. If I go back to Guatemala I don't know what I will do because there is no work. I came to fight to stay here, live here and get my children an education."

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