Fresno groups helping children caught up in immigration courts

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The public outcry has been growing over the separation of children and parents at the US-Mexico border. More lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed it was important to keep the families together.

RELATED: AUDIO: Migrant children separated from parents wail at U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility

Two Fresno organizations have been helping the children get through a tough time.

Kids become separated from their parents as they're picked up at the border. Adults are sent to federal detention centers while children eventually wind up in shelters.

Fresno attorney Esmeralda Santos said unaccompanied minors, scared and confused, often represent themselves in immigration court.

Santos explained, "It's a very difficult situation. In fact, it brings up a lot of due process violations. Many of these kids may not know the full story of their asylum case."

Santos represents 40 children through the Fresno office of KIND, or Kids In Need of Defense. Actress Angelina Jolie co-founded the group.

Santos had kids as young as three trying to navigate immigration court. She said, "In the case where I was explaining my client who was three years old, He has an older sibling, and she is eight years old, and so then I'm able to speak with the eight-year-old and talk about her case."

KIND now has a waiting list for new clients.

The Pan Valley Institute of the American Friends Service Committee is a Fresno non-profit which works to create a safe place for immigrants. Program Associate Minerva Mendoza said, "We have heard of cases where children arrive without any records. How are we going to get them back to their parents? Our hope is that President Trump does something about it. He has the power to stop what's happening."

The president weighed in on the controversial issue on Tuesday. He said, "Maybe it's politically correct, or maybe it's not. We gotta stop separation of the families but politically correct or not we have a country that needs security, that needs safety, that needs to be protected."

RELATED: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says migrant children are being treated humanely

A week after Democratic lawmakers announced a bill to stop the family separations at the border, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced competing legislation which also seeks to keep families together.
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