For teens navigating the United States asylum system, the thought of turning 18 and being transferred to a prison-like adult detention center is terrifying. Our immigrant teenage clients often dream of finishing high school and going to college. However, on their 18th birthdays, the government defaults to sending them to adult detention centers, remote grounds surrounded by razor wire fencing—living in "pods." During the current COVID-19 outbreak, adult detention centers have become overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, making the prospect of adult detention is all the more frightening.
A young man named Diego recently faced this situation. He migrated to the U.S. from Guatemala, fleeing circumstances no child should experience, including abuse and neglect. While in government custody at a children’s shelter, Diego enjoyed studying English and Spanish. His native language is Kʼiche.
Thanks to the advocacy of our legal team, which is made possible with your support, Diego was released upon turning 18 rather than being sent to the dire conditions of adult detention. He entered adulthood in freedom, at the home of a sponsor in California, instead of in a cell. The Florence Project arranged for his travel to California, provided him with necessary food and toiletries for the trip, and facilitated his communication with local pro bono volunteer attorneys.
Diego dreams of earning a degree in electrical engineering. His dream would never have been possible under the harm he endured in Guatemala.
The joy of a young person exiting detention—even while still facing immigration hearings to win permanent safety—is a powerful event for everyone involved. Your support allows us to fight tenaciously to free the immigrant children that remain detained. We thank you!