MIAMI SHORES (CBSMiami) — As more children cross the border into the United States, the court system is trying to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors, but a plan to speed up the immigration hearing process has some religious leaders and advocates concerned.

Thousands of those undocumented children end up in Florida.

“All they want is to be free from economic oppression, from gang violence, from drugs,” said Richard Turcotte, of Catholic Charities addressing media during a news conference at the Archdiocese of Miami.

Once here, the children must go before a judge to determine whether they’ll be deported. Those immigration hearings are now being fast-tracked. Judges in Miami are expected to hear 150 cases a day now through September. Catholic leaders and immigration attorneys are concerned speeding up the legal process isn’t fair to the children.

“No matter your politics, no matter the administration, putting innocent children in the crosshairs of conveyor belt justice is wrong,” said Manny Crespo of the Cuban-American Bar Association.

Archbishop Thomas Wenksi added, “We’re not saying every child will have to stay in the U.S. We can’t say that. What we’re saying is what we should do should be about the child and about the best interest of the child.”

Immigration attorneys said most of the unaccompanied children crossing the border are coming from Central America and many are between seven and nine years old.

Cheryl Little, with Americans for Immigrant Justice said, “These children are fleeing for good reason. They’re fleeing to save their lives. Honduras is murder capital of the world. Guatemala and El Salvador are among the five most dangerous countries in the world… A deportation order is tantamount to a virtual death sentence.”

Now, some immigration attorneys and religious leaders are appealing to the legal community here in South Florida to make sure these children receive due process.

If you want to help, you can call 305-914-2157 or email

Watch Maggie Newland’s report, click here.




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