by: Rachel Stockman Updated:DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —
Several attorneys are concerned about immigrant children reportedly abandoned by their parents and without legal guardians in DeKalb County.
Attorney Rebeca Salmon, who runs the non-profit Access to Law, said she is experiencing consistent problems getting guardians approved for children by the DeKalb County Juvenile Court.
“They are going to make it so frustrating, so time consuming that no one is going to take these cases,” Salmon said.
Salmon said she has had problems with 12 children’s cases so far, and estimates the average wait time for a hearing is 3 to 5 months.
“It’s brick wall, after brick wall. It’s ridiculous things, not even legal issue, it is minutia,” Salmon said.
Nine-year-old Zanna Zaccoh and 13-year-old Osam Zaccoh never saw electricity or running water until they were put on a plane in Sierra Leon in West Africa to come to DeKalb County.
“In the United States, we have someone to take care of us. While in Africa, we did not have some to take care of us,” said Osam Zaccoh. “We love living with our aunt.”
The children said their father is too sick to care for them and their mother abandoned them.
“The bottom line is these kids are deprived, and without a legal guardian,” Salmon said.
The children’s aunt, Zainbe Sowe, said the children have no other family, and she is their only choice. Sowe said she’s been trying to get guardianship for months.
On Thursday, Judge Ruby Thomas delayed their hearing, requesting further investigation, to verify this was not a “ploy” to get the children in the United States.
Without legal guardianship, Salmon says children have trouble getting access to basic services, like doctors.
“I don’t want a rubber stamp of approval, I just want you to come into your court room in a timely manner do your job present your evidence, and make your rulings,” Salmon said.
Thomas told Channel 2 Action News that she could not comment.