The Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, The Center, is collaborating with other legal services providers, community-based groups and other stakeholders to address the underlying causes of the 2014 “surge” of unaccompanied minors migrating from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras into the United States and how these minors are treated if they make their way to the U.S. The project will assess the legal challenges faced by unaccompanied minors making the perilous journey to the U.S., provide advocates with tools and technical support to represent unaccompanied minors, and identify and propose sustainable solutions to this mass migration based on compiled research and sourced recommendations from experts in and out of government in the three major sending countries in Central America, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Initial research by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and other involved agencies have identified five common causes for the increase in migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America:

  • Gang violence in the home communities.
  • Abandonment, abuse or neglect of the minors
  • Lack of infrastructure supporting education in the home communities
  • Lack of infrastructure supporting employment and job training in the home communities
  • Desire to reunite with parents and other immediate family members in the United States.
  • One goal of the project is to prepare and circulate a consolidated and comprehensive report that explores the underlying causes of the migration, identifies potential consensus-based solutions to these causes, and proposes ways in which the U.S. (including the Government, NGOs, and other entities) may act to assist Central American entities in implementing these solutions.

In conjunction with preparing this report, the project hopes to coordinate meetings in both the U.S. and Central America at which stakeholders and experts from across the public spectrum can come together and discuss broad, workable plans to address the root causes of youth migration. These meetings will enable leaders, experts, community organizations and advocates to network, share ideas and potentially form a working group for executing proposed solutions and tracking progress.

The project will also focus on the treatment of unaccompanied minors once they are in the U.S., and the enforcement of their existing rights. The Center is uniquely positioned to assess the treatment of unaccompanied minors due to its on-going role as class counsel in the Perez-Olano and Flores cases. The project will make administrative, legislative and executive policy recommendations, and provide ongoing technical support, training and litigation support to legal services programs and community-based groups representing these minors.

This web site is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for advocates and stakeholders highlighting key articles, studies, and advocacy efforts, providing a searchable resource database for representatives of minors, and making available to advocates new court decisions and proposed regulatory changes or legislation regarding unaccompanied minors.


The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation serves as class counsel for all apprehended unaccompanied minors in the US, pursuant to nationwide settlements reached in two major cases:

Perez-Olano v. Johnson: settlement bars the Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), from blocking abused, abandoned and neglected children's access to lawful status as Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) by (1) demanding that they obtain the consent of the federal government before seeking the protection of state juvenile courts, or (2) by declaring them ineligible for SIJ merely because they turn 18 before filing for SIJ benefits. (Download the settlement)

Flores v. Reno: The Flores nationwide class action settlement with the Federal Government, among other things, agreed to vastly improve conditions of detention of minors to release minors to a wide range of responsible adults, and except in rare circumstances to not hold minors in detention facilities for more than 72 hours. (Download the settlement)



  • Perez-Olano v. Johnson: On July 21, 2014 the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and Public Counsel filed a motion for class-wide enforcement of the settlement in Perez-Olano v. Johnson.
  • Henriquez-Rivas v. Holder, 707 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2013) The Ninth Circuit overruled Soriano v. Holder, and Velasco–Cervantes v. Holder, holding that witnesses who testify against gang members may constitute a particular social group on an application for asylum despite a lack of social visibility. This case involved a 12-year-old girl from El Salvador who testified against the gang members who murdered her father.
  • Martinez-Seren v. Holder, 394 F. App'x 404 (9th Cir. 2012) The Ninth Circuit vacated the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision and remanded, holding that BIA failed to address the family aspect of petitioner’s proposed social group…which was particularly relevant in light of record evidence that the gang targeted members of Martinez-Seren’s family in addition to him and his sister.
  • Arizona Dream Act Coalition, et al v. Brewer, (D.C. No. 2:12-cv-02546-DGC) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s unconstitutional executive order, which denies driver’s licenses to a specific class of immigrant youth despite their being authorized to live and work in the United States. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division to end its policy of denying licenses to young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
  • M.S.P.C. v. Johnson (D.C. No. 1:14-cv-01437) The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center today sued the federal government to challenge its policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety. The complaint charges the Obama administration with enacting a new strong-arm policy to ensure rapid deportations by holding these mothers and their children to a nearly insurmountable and erroneous standard to prove their asylum claims, and by placing countless hurdles in front of them.
  • J.E.F.M. v. Holder (D.C. No. 2:14-cv-01026-TSZ) The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on July 9, 2014 on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation in deportation hearings. The complaint charges the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a "full and fair hearing" before an immigration judge. It seeks to require the government to provide children with legal representation in their deportation hearings. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Wash.