While undocumented immigrant children face the same removal proceedings as adults, some conditions of their lives do drastically change on the day that they turn 18.

If an undocumented minor has been detained while crossing the border, they may spend time in a shelter with other young persons while their immigration case is being processed. Should they turn 18 during this time, on the morning of their birthday, they will be removed from the shelter, and placed into an adult detention facility.

Chinese minors sent through snakeheads, or other immigrant children who have been brought to the United States without their parents, may be eligible for a form of legal relief known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or SIJS. Should their case meet certain criteria, they may be granted permission to remain in the U.S. legally.

They can no longer apply once they turn either 18 or 21, depending on state laws.

Challenges such as these are not faced by Chinese immigrant youth alone.

We recently had the chance to check out the feature-length documentary Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth. The young persons in the film have grown up in the U.S. since childhood or infancy, only to come to the age of 18 with no legal status, no work permit, and no place other than America that they have ever called home.

Like unaccompanied Chinese minors who have been unable to gain legal status through SIJS or other forms of relief, they face the prospect of deportation, or a life in the shadows, waiting for an unwelcome hard knock on the front door, with no path to citizenship open to them.

Check out their trailer below, and visit their site to find out about the film, and the ways in which the youth whom they have interviewed have attempted to gain control over their futures in America.


The "story wall" has grown since late March, with each added card representing another interview excerpt, b-roll shot or graphic.

The photo included here is as much for blogging and facebook purposes as it is for our own records- should, for whatever reason, all the cards fall off the wall, there's enough detail in the photo to tell us what went where.


As of today, we've completed an initial first pass, but there's still about a week's worth of work to be done in developing various sections.
The information posted on the wall will be typed up into a script format. This will then be the blueprint for the rough assembly edit.

"In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration."

United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a United Nations treaty establishing human rights standards for the treatment and development of children. It recognizes that "people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not" and lays out basic human rights standards as applicable to children (Convention on the Rights of the Child website).

Immigration proceedings in the United States do not have legal provisions offering special care and protection for children. Children face the same courts and judges as adults, and similarly, they have no right to counsel at government expense.

The Immigrant Child Advocacy Project (ICAP) pairs Child Advocates with children in immigration proceedings. A Child Advocate has many duties, among which are providing support for the child, helping them obtain proper legal representation, and advocating for the child's best interests according to the standards provided for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In the following interview excerpt, ICAP Director and Founder Maria Woltjen discusses the origins of the Child Advocate role, and Child Advocates' many duties as they assist children in immigration proceedings.