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Catholic group helps out children housed at Fort Sill

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FORT SILL, Okla._A Catholic group out of Oklahoma City is using the next month to help educate the unaccompanied children at Fort Sill about their rights.

Starting Monday, representatives from Catholic Charities, a nationwide organization, will be educating around 15 children at a time to help them know their process through immigration court.

Through one of their programs, Catholic Charities has been providing legal help to immigrants for 25 years. The director says their goal is to find these children an end result, whether it be deportation or getting them into the care of family members living in the U.S. They say the legal process is difficult for anyone to understand, and especially hard when you're a kid who doesn't speak English.

Immigrants or not, Sonny Wilkinson, Senior Director of Mission Advancement, says these children should know their rights.

"You have the right to go to immigration court to discuss the situation and determine an outcome," said Wilkinson.

Volunteers for the organization spent the entire day working with several children, many of whom aren't sure what to do next.

"The age group does present a unique challenge, and they'll really hit on those high points about what you need to do immediately," he explained.

Wilkinson says their focus now is educating the children on their rights and they aren't very different from yours and mine.

"Comparing them to Miranda Rights is pretty close. There are basic rights given under U.S. law that they need to understand," said Wilkinson.

And once they understand their rights, volunteers plan to walk the children through the legal process with the help of an attorney, some of whom are wanting to help pro bono, or at low costs. It's a process that includes figuring out where their family members in the U.S. are, who they need to call, and how they can get their case transferred to another state if it applies. It’s a process that Wilkinson says will take time.

"For each kid, there is a unique story. No two are alike. You can't just go in and say ‘Well, you fall under situation “A”'or, 'You fall under situation “B”’," explained Wilkinson.

The volunteers will be working until the end of the month and then address concerns from there. Wilkinson says he knows some people are upset about the housed immigrants, but he says we need to remember they’re children who are alone and scared and took a journey to get to a safer place and a better life.

They need roughly 50 to 60 more volunteers to help. There are qualifications you must have to become a volunteer and you can find out that information here.

 

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