Charity for unaccompanied minors
BATON ROUGE - Catholic Charities has launched the Louisiana Esperanza Project to help raise funding for unaccompanied minors.
The project is aimed at securing legal representation for the influx of refugee children who recently made their way to Louisiana.
More than a thousand are staying in the state after being captured crossing the border illegally. Three quarters of them are boys and greater number of them are older than 14. According to a list, there are 173 immigrant children in East Baton Rouge, the third-highest total in the state.
CCDBR Executive Director David Aguillard says each one of those children have the right to legal representation.
"If there's a valid reason for them to be here... If their safety depends upon granting the privilege of them becoming our neighbors, they will likely have their fair day in court, get a good hearing and be granted the privilege to remain here and stay safe," he said.
Fees average about $10,000.
"These children have no where to turn," he said. "They have access to our courts and our legal system, but unlike other court systems, immigration court gives you a right to access their processes but does not provide attorneys."
The issue is controversial. Lawmakers have publicly blasted the federal government for moving the children to Louisiana. In a series of reports, state lawmakers have said the children should be returned.
"We should ask these nations to come retrieve their citizens, and they should pay for it," said State Rep. Valarie Hodges in an interview with WBRZ last month.
CCDBR hopes to raise about $2 million in the next four years to cover the legal costs. Aguillard said the number of sponsors requesting services has tripled in the past year to over 100 per month.