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Unaccompanied Minors Appear In New York Immigration Court

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Dozens of children facing deportation appeared in New York immigration court on Thursday.

The more than 60 unaccompanied minors, who illegally crossed the border from Central America, were sent to New York from Texas.

Some of the children arrived in the U.S. when they were as young as three, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported.

Dozens Of Unaccompanied Children To Appear In Immigration Court In NY

"These are kids who have experienced child abuse or sexual abuse in the household, or severe neglect, abandonment," said Claire Thomas of the Safe Passage Project, which serves as an advocate for the children in immigration court. "You might imagine it's really scary if you're little and you don't speak that language to understand what's going on in the court room."

The children are facing deportation and the burden of proof lies on them, Thomas said.

"It's on the child to prove that they have the legal right to remain in this country," Thomas said.

Lucas Hodinas, 16, is the new face of immigration in America, CBS 2's Don Champion reported.

"We were treated badly by our parents," Hodinas told Champion through an interpreter.

A native of Mexico, Hodinas crossed the border alone last November. After hitch-hiking to New York City to be with his brother who was already here, Hodinas was detained on a train when he couldn't present a ticket.

Now, he's one of many seeking asylum in the states.

"It's difficult for them, especially because they are alone and they don't have any kinds of representation, families," said Fabian Arias.

Arias is Hodinas' assigned guardian and works with children like him.

Thursday's hearing is just one step in what could be a yearlong process.

The government calls them UACs, short for Unaccompanied Alien Children, Champion reported.

Under a law signed by President George W. Bush, UACs can't be deported without a hearing.

While the government said a majority of the kids are deported, some who are trying to escape violence or abuse have a chance to stay.

Children like Hodinas are trying to get into the country at an alarming rate. According to customs officials, already this year more than 52,000 unaccompanied children and teens have been caught at the U.S.-Mexico border, Champion reported. That's a 99 percent increase from 2013.

Immigration attorney Rob Cisneros, who represented one of more than 130 UACs in Manhattan Thursday, said the system is overburdened.

"In some of the other cases they're saying 'OK, you're going to have a final hearing...the dates they were giving for those hearings were 2015, 2016 even," Cisneros said.

In Hodinas' case he faces another hearing in October. He said he eventually wants to finish school and build a career in the U.S., but first he faces another long journey; one through the legal system.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has called on Congress to approve his multi-billion dollar request for emergency spending to deal with the country's immigration problem.

The president met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other officials in Dallas to discuss the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, but Obama rejected pressure from Perry to visit the border for a firsthand look.

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