Unaccompanied Immigrant Children
An estimated 90% of children without a lawyer are deported and sent back to their home country. Volunteer to help children in New York Immigration Court today.
How Can I Help?
Local organizations are looking for volunteers, with opportunities ranging from greeting families, to legal screening, to full representation. You don't have to be an immigration attorney--or even an attorney--to get involved. This page highlights:
(1) Volunteer opportunities in New York;
(2) Answers to some frequently asked questions;
(3) Resources to help you get started, including free webinars to guide you through key concepts and a free online legal resource library, co-ordinated by the Immigration Advocates Network.
1. Volunteer Opportunities in New York
Volunteer with ICARE at New York City Immigration Court: In August 2014, in response to the growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border, seven non-profit legal service organizations formed the ICARE Coalition. This coalition provides legal representation to unaccompanied minors who are in removal proceedings before the New York Immigration Court. The Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, and The Door staff the unaccompanied minors’ priority docket on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and, on those days, screen unrepresented unaccompanied minors for immigration relief. They need volunteers to greet families, interpret, and conduct legal screenings. Click the link to get started on your inquiry.
Safe Passage Project: This organization, based out of New York Law School, trains and mentors volunteer attorneys to represent unaccompanied minors in Immigration Court. The training will cover Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and other immigration relief for children. For further details, click here. Selecting an option below will take you to a sign-up form:
Other Volunteering Opportunities
Immigration Advocates Network's National Immigration Legal Services Directory: 50+ organizations in New York State providing assistance to low-income immigrants with asylum applications, removal hearings, and/or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Contact an organization near you to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
Immigrant Child Advocacy Network: This is a project of the ABA Working Group on Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants. You can sign up to volunteer via their online form. The ABA will match interested volunteers with local organizations that assist unaccompanied minors in immigration matters.
Kids in Need of Defense and USCRI are national organizations that offer support programs to match lawyers to children’s cases.
I am not an Immigration Attorney. Can I Still Help?
Yes. There are opportunities that range from greeting families to full representation. Attorneys new to immigration law can find an introductory training either at the organization with which they want to volunteer or on the Immigration Advocates Network's training calendar. Attorney and non-attorney volunteers are welcome.
Will I Receive Training or Mentoring?
This depends on the project. Some organizations make training and mentoring a core part of their volunteers' experience. Other organizations will pair you with staff for work such as legal screening. Be sure to speak to the organization you volunteer with about training and supervision, and don't forget to browse the IAN's training calendar or sign up for a monthly update to see what trainings are around the corner.
What are the Immigration Options for Children?
There are protections for immigrant children who have been abused or neglected; have been persecuted or fear persecution in their home country; or, are victims of crime and torture. Children may qualify for immigration benefits based on a family member’s immigration status or case. This PowerPoint presentation gives a good overview of immigration options for children.
What is Immigration Court?
Immigration Court is an administrative law court, within the U.S. Department of Justice - Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). For more detailed information about the EOIR, court rules, and practice manuals, go to: http://www.justice.gov/eoir. View this webinar for an overview of immigration court proceedings. Immigration Judges generally appreciate pro bono counsel, and can provide some guidance on procedure. The EOIR has published guidelines on policies the court may implement to support pro bono.
How is Representing a Child Different from Representing an Adult?
Watch this webinar to learn about best practices for representing children. It covers the basic immigration options, ethical considerations for working with child clients, and tips for establishing trust and interviewing a child.
Where Can I Find Trusted Resources on Children's Immigration?
In addition to the specific resources we highlight above in our FAQ, view the links below to find introductory resources for first time pro bono attorneys and those new to immigration on the National Unaccompanied Children Resource Center and Immigration Advocates Network.
Unaccompanied Children Resource Center: This national clearinghouse, a project of the Immigration Advocates Network, American Bar Association, and Pro Bono Net, houses UAC trainings and events, up-to-date news, community education resources, attorney materials, and city-by-city information on surge dockets.
Immigrant Youth: This Immigration Advocates Network library folder contains reports, manuals, articles, practice advisories and webinars on immigrating children and other special issues concerning immigrant youth in the United States. Join the Immigration Advocates Network's Nonprofit Resource Center (Nonprofit Staff) or Pro Bono Resource Center (Pro Bono Attorneys) to access Immigrant Youth.
About this page
The NYC Pro Bono Center thanks the Immigration Advocates Network and the National Unaccompanied Children's Resource Center for their assistance in developing this page. The NYC Pro Bono Center is a joint initiative of Pro Bono Net, the Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center. The NYC Pro Bono Center is a diverse network of 9,000+ civil legal services, private attorneys and law student members engaged in pro bono in New York City and committed to our shared vision of equal access to justice for all. Feedback about this page is welcome!