Why are we even talking about children and credible or reasonable fear interviews??
We don’t normally think about children and these interviews. When children come alone, they are not in the immigration process, but as Unaccompanied Minors.
As you know, between 2009, when the last bout of family detention ended, until June, 2014, ICE had typically released women and children on bond or parole. Last June, DHS adopted a policy last summer of detaining all mothers who arrived with their children. ICE refused to either set bond for anyone, or to release on parole anyone, with a handful of extraordinary exceptions. (One of those exceptions was a family of a little girl who was very sick and her mother, represented by Kate.)
Therefore, it became necessary to go to the immigration judges to request a reconsideration of custody status, or a bond hearing. It was, and is, possible (for people not in reinstatement proceedings, and who were not deemed “arriving aliens”) to go to the judge once ICE had made a “no-bond” determination.
But typically it all happened at more or less the same time: And in order to get to the judge, all but a handful ofbecame necessary to go to a judge for bond, and to get a Notice To Appear, a person needed to “pass” a “Credible Fear Interview with an Asylum Officer.
A crisis developed as some mothers “failed” credible or reasonable fear hearings — or as Asylum Officers failed to make credible or reasonable fear hearings for those women — but the children could not go back. Sometimes the children had stronger cases than their mothers did, because the persecution or harm had been to them. Then, too, their were mothers who were unable to convince asylum officers that they had “reasonable fears” of returning, a higher standard that the “credible fear.” Maybe the children could establish “credible fear” if given their own opportunities to explain their fears.
Questions abound. Are children “capable” of participating in these interviews? Should they be placed in such a situation? Is it more harmful to question them, or to leave them out of the process?
Desperate times call for — perhaps — desperate measures. Or perhaps we should have been doing this all along.