MADISON (WKOW) -- As city leaders look for a place to house up to 250 undocumented children there are questions being raised about just how long those kids would have to stay here as they go through the legal immigration process.
Mayor Paul Soglin has said those illegal immigrants would be in Madison 30 to 60 days, but a local immigration attorney says that timeline may not be realistic.
Mayor Soglin is trying to help the federal government by taking in children detained after trying to illegally enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. Most of the minors are fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America.
Soglin has said Madison would only have to provide the space for a temporary shelter. The U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is the federal department that handles placing those children in temporary living situations and paying for their care.
"Feds take care of everything. Completely self-contained," said Soglin, referring to the cost of housing those children.
But the federal government likely won't take care of legal representation for those children. The kids would probably have to rely on pro-bono work from local immigration attorneys.
"The burden of proof is on the applicant to prove their case that they are not deportable or they're able to be withheld from removal proceedings, so that burden falls on that child," said Huma Ahsan, an attorney with Madison Immigration Law.
Ahsan says those children will have to try to claim asylum. She says those cases typically last far longer than just two months.
"Once they are admitted there are some determinations on when they will be released or paroled until an affirmative hearing, which can be typically about a year later," said Ahsan.
The U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review told 27 News these cases are being given priority status, but did not say how long they are expected to take.
A spokesperson for the ACF told 27 News most of the children are transitioned out of temporary shelters and placed with sponsors after 30 days. But sponsors are normally a parent, relative or family friend of the child. If there are no such sponsors available, the kids are generally kept in the temporary shelters until they can be placed into long-term foster care, released into state custody through the federal Unaccompanied Refugee Minor's program, or released into another licensed child-welfare program.
Ahsan says in border states such as Texas and California it is often easy to find such sponsors, but that likely won't be the case in Madison.
"There should be something in place because, after they arrive here they'll have to appear in immigration court about a year," said Ahsan.
At this point, the city has been unsuccessful in finding a suitable shelter for those children, but is still trying to locate one.
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