A Child, an Immigration Hearing, and a Doctor’s Testimony

A Child, an Immigration Hearing, and a Doctor’s Testimony

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The Atlantic
By Jennie Gold

In New York and Los Angeles, partnerships between pediatricians, psychologists, and legal clinics help unaccompanied minors prepare for the courtroom.

New York lawyer Brett Stark, who has worked with dozens of unaccompanied Central American children who crossed into the United States in the past year, says getting the courts to grant these kids asylum is extremely difficult. So he often turns to a special advocate—a doctor.

Such medical-legal partnerships have cropped up in New York and California, where thousands of unaccompanied minors have settled with their families or friends who were already in the U.S.

One child in New York, a teenager from Honduras, carried a mark of his country’s gang violence in his back—a bullet lodged in the middle of his spine. He ended up in the Bronx, where his immigration case was taken up by Stark, who works with the Immigrant and Refugee Division at Catholic Charities New York. Asylum cases are among the most difficult immigration status cases to win, Stark says, and a doctor’s testimony can help sway the decision.