Lawyers, Case Workers Begin Helping Immigrant Children At Fort Sill

Monday, July 7th 2014, 5:41 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

At Fort Sill Monday, lawyers and case workers began the intake and screening process to figure out the next step for those unaccompanied immigrant children housed at the post.   

Catholic Charities is in charge of the process and is putting out the call for volunteers to help. They need about 50 to 60 specialized workers to explain to the children their rights and meet individually with each child.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson says there are currently 1,117 teenagers housed at Ft. Sill. On Monday Catholic Charities workers began the daunting task of conducting group "know your rights" presentations and triaging each child individually.

"It's not us determining what somebody's status is. It's us helping the individual interact with the government," explained Sonny Wilkinson, the senior director of mission advancement for Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities is looking for lawyers, caseworkers and individuals who are bi-lingual to help the children understand the process and where they will go from here.

"They'll be told how to interact with immigration court. What numbers they need to call if they have family members somewhere else in the country. How to transfer to be reunited or at the end of the day that deportation may happen and this is the way those proceedings go," said Wilkinson.

Jasmine Majid has been an immigration lawyer for 20 years and is one of those who had already volunteered.

"I feel like as an attorney and immigration attorney it's my civic duty," she said Monday.

Majid has experience in this type of thing and knows it won't be easy, especially explaining a complex immigration situation and gathering crucial information from children.

"There are a number of trauma that these kids have probably already endured and the more of that they have endured the less likely they are to openly communicate that information to us," she said.

Catholic Charities has set up a web site with more information on who they are looking for and how to volunteer.