Hartford Lawyer Discusses Experience With Migrant Children

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Hartford immigration attorney Rafael Pichardo has seen a surge of cases recently.  At least four of those clients are undocumented children in Connecticut.

“One of them is from Honduras, and he is someone who fled Honduras because of the violence that’s going on there. He had a brother who had been murdered, and he was trying to get away from the gangs as well,” said Pichardo, who said stories like that are common.

He estimates the state has a few thousand migrant children. Pichardo considers them refugees.

“What we do with refugees, normally what the process is — we find places to shelter them, we find places to provide them with their immediate needs and then we evaluate exactly whether they can be returned to their home countries or whether they should stay here,” said Pichardo.

The federal government asked to house some of the unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. at a facility in Southbury. Gov. Dannel Malloy rejected that request earlier this week.

His administration released a letter on Friday explaining that Southbury and all other state-owned vacant properties “were found to be either far too small  … and/or they contained mold, asbestos, lead or other serious problems.”

“If they are true, I think those are legitimate reasons, but I think, you know, Connecticut is a large state. We’re a state with resources, and I don’t see why we couldn’t find an alternative,” said Pichardo.

The Malloy administration did say that the Department of Children and Families will work with federal officials “to facilitate, where possible, the temporary placements of individual unaccompanied minors who have family relations in Connecticut.”

As Pichardo racks up deportation cases, he hopes Malloy will figure out a devoted place for his clients to stay soon.

“I think a large number of them do need shelter. They need a place where they can receive medical treatment,” he said. “I think there’s definitely a need for them to have a space.”

Malloy’s chief of staff said the administration plans to continue discussing what Connecticut can do to “aid in this crisis.” He said a meeting with the state’s Black and Puerto Rican caucus is in the works.

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