South Florida Attorneys Get Trained To Help Children Separated From Their Parents At The Border

Jul 11, 2018

Thousands of attorneys across the nation have been working for weeks to help children who were separated from their parents due to the Trump Administration’s now-scaled-back “zero tolerance policy” on illegal border crossings.

Sara B. Herald of the Miami-based law firm Bilzin Sumberg says those groups have been overwhelmed by the case loads. That's why Bilzin Sumberg and other firms around the country are stepping forward to help.

“We’ll pro bono assist these children because we’re concerned that their rights are not being protected," Herald told WLRN.

Her firm was one of 34 across the nation that signed a public pledge “to help reunify families and ensure representation for legitimate asylum seekers” by offering voluntary, free legal assistance.

About 25 attorneys from different local law firms attended a training at the Bilzin Sumberg office in Miami on Tuesday. The training, given by Catholic Legal Services, helped lay the groundwork for how to approach immigration cases, specifically when clients are young children.

“We’re going to be focusing on the children that are here in Miami-Dade County,” Herald said. “Certainly we will be available to help in other jurisdictions if we manage to get through the cases that are here that need help.”

The cases can be especially difficult to handle since many of the children are so young that they might not even know the names of their parents beyond “mama and papa,” added Herald.

Over 200 separated children have ended up in facilities in Miami-Dade County. This week, the first two children being held at a facility in Homestead were reunified with their parents, the Miami Herald reported.

The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was short-lived. After a public outcry about separating children from their parents while the parents await misdemeanor criminal charges, President Trump reversed the policy on June 20. The newest version directs federal agencies to incarcerate families together while the adults who are accused of crossing the border illegally await trial and possible deportation.

The next step for local attorneys working on the issue is to identify the children -- and the cases -- they will be working on.

“We want to make sure these children don’t have to stay in custody for any longer than they have to, that they get reunified with their family to minimize whatever psychological damage might have already been done,” said Herald.