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VEGAS LOST: New policy could keep immigrant children locked up indefinitely

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A proposed policy change could keep immigrant children locked up behind bars indefinitely.

That's the fear from immigration attorneys today who represent the dozens of kids in Nevada fighting to stay in the country

In June, we covered the story of Kevin, who traveled on his own from Central America to Vegas.

Kevin initially appears to be just an unassuming 16-year-old kid. But then he talked and through his interpreter told the story of how he got here.

“It felt good. I got here alive and I didn't lose a foot or hand so I felt that I was lucky,” Kevin told us. “Even though you encounter people on the way who want to do things to you, I was lucky enough to make it.”

Kevin is from Honduras. He fled his home country with nothing but the clothes on his back after being threatened by the gangs there.

When he got to America, he was immediately picked up by the Border Patrol.

After we aired our story about the teen, now fighting for amnesty in a justice system at a crossroads, we had plenty of viewers asking for updates.

The update is that there is no update. Court cases take time.

Kevin gets to wait it out as a normal teen. He goes to school and lives in a house because a Las Vegan is sponsoring him.

They're responsible for him while he fights it out.

But here’s an update for the dozens of families in our state going through the same thing: things are changing.

“It's really significant,” said UNLV immigration attorney Laura Barrera. “It won’t affect Kevin or anyone we represent. It will affect kids like Kevin who are in detention.”

Right now, for kids like Kevin, the process works like this: they can get out of detention and into the care of a sponsor, often an extended family member or a licensed program.

The sponsors are vetted by the federal government. That is called “The Flores Settlement.”

However, there’s a move to change that agreement, letting kids out only to the custody of their parents.

The problem? Often, parents are either undocumented and subject to deportation when they pick their kids up, or parents are out of the country

This means that kids like Kevin would remain behind bars, and, critically, away from attorneys who can help them with their cases.

“It’s hard to get evidence,” said Barrera. “They have a better chance if they can work with their attorney. A lot of them win. Our clients here who have won wouldn't have won if they’re released.”

The argument for the change is that there were cases of human trafficking when kids were released to sponsors who then committed crimes.

However, no statistics are available on how often that happened.

We want to get your thoughts and story ideas for this series. Just email us at vegaslost@news3lv.com.


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