American Immigration lawWatch
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The penalties for illegal entry/immigration to the United States-for the first offense, are 6 months in jail and/or a possible fine for the first offense(this is just for the entry, if it is alleged other criminal acts are committed, then those become additional potential penalties)...so even if a child enters, doesn't do anything else (like for example, engage in some violent act, import drugs), and is still treated as a juvenile and NOT prosecuted (because they have not yet reached the age of majority of 18) there are some other nasty options-like transfer to state court jurisdiction (immigration may be a federal/national issue-but each state has its own laws on trespass-which is one way to prosecute a minor in juvenile court, subject the child to potential juvenile detention while the case is proceeding, etc.). I do not mean to say this is what will happen, I'm just giving some nightmarish situations, as examples of what could potentially, worst case scenarios, occur.
But there is something more ominous and worrisome, which is that even if the child is NOT prosecuted, and is only briefly detained and sent back to their host country-the problem is that the illegal entry can be used to later try to prevent lawful entry - entering the United States illegally can and will be used to prevent that person from later lawfully immigrating, particularly under the current administration in The United States. This current administration, seems prepared to do anything and everything, legal and potentially even illegal, to punish and persecute illegal (and for that matter, in my opinion, legal) immigrants.
Now, I started out with these serious potential consequences, NOT to be negative. I wrote what I wrote, because it is so important to realize, though the child (or adult) may be in The United States illegally, help is out there, as I will outline below, so all hope is NOT lost!
These are just some general guidelines, each case or situation is specific, so please do not take my comments as legal advice, or counsel for any specific situation, but rather, as just an overview of the general consequences for unlawful entry into the United States by a child.
Therefore, I think, it would be be advisable, for any person or child in such a situation to immediately speak with an immigration attorney(someone who specializes in immigration law), who would be able to give actual legal advice specific to the facts and circumstances of the specific person(s) situation. The previous protections for children who are in the United States illegally are under attack, and so if a child is in the U.S. illegally, the best thing I can suggest, again, is to seek immediate legal counsel. Here are a few resources of potential pro bono (free) help(because access to justice SHOULD NOT be dependent upon money):
I hope this is helpful, and pray you anyone in the described circumstances can get the help they need.