While people around the world ushered in the New Year with fireworks and champagne toasts, Carlos spent December 31, his 18th birthday, in a cell in a remote detention center in Arizona.
 
Carlos came to the United States seeking safety after being trafficked and suffering tremendous trauma in his home country. We filed an asylum application for Carlos, but we also knew his 18th birthday was on the horizon, an uncertain time for a child in deportation proceedings.
 
When a child in deportation proceedings turns 18, they are handcuffed and transferred to adult detention unless they are granted release on their own recognizance.
 
With the assistance of partner organizations, Carlos’ social worker and attorney advocated for his release and were told it would be granted. However, early in the morning on his birthday, the decision was reversed, and he was handcuffed and taken to adult detention. We weren’t even able to explain to him what had happened in person.
 
However, we refused to give up on Carlos, so we resubmitted our request directly to the facility in which he was now detained. On January 1, they agreed to release Carlos!
 
Carlos’ social worker and attorney went to the facility to help him get a taxi to his new housing arrangement in Phoenix. His first question was how and when he could enroll in his new high school.
 
This is the first birthday that Carlos ever celebrated and his first birthday cake! We are honored to have been a part of it.
 
Carlos is everything that the Florence Project stands for.