Minors in our care come from all over the world, but the vast majority are from what’s known as the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Each of these countries has a consulate office that functions as a type of satellite office for the country’s main embassy. They handle tasks such as issuing visas, supporting tourists and are typically found in larger cities.
These consulates also serve as a resource throughout the reunification process, providing helpful services like document verification, locating close relatives, cultural opportunities and communications support.
Consulates support our work in a variety of ways. Some children arrive at our shelters with helpful information that allows our case managers to begin the process of locating suitable sponsors. However, some youth arrive with very little information, perhaps just a parent’s first name or the city where they previously lived. In all cases, the consulate is immediately notified and helps confirm country of origin, locate birth certificates and verify other documentation. They also serve as an important bridge to reach families in ensuring minors can contact loved ones regularly during the time they are in our care.
Many of our staff, who are immigrants or first-generation Americans, know how important preserving this connection and keeping minors in touch with their families who may be thousands of miles away. If an uncommon language or dialect is spoken by the minor, consulates can provide translation services or assist with client interviews.
Minors can contact their consulate at any point during their stay and representatives from the consulates visit or host remote meetings with the minors weekly. Some consulates host workshops or events focused on that country’s history or traditions at the shelters to bring a piece of home to the children. Often, they assist staff with field trips and holiday celebrations. Our strong relationship with consulates opens many opportunities for the minors in our care and is a key reason we can unite youth with sponsors in a short period of time.