The Unaccompanied Children Resource Center launched in early 2015 as a joint project of the Immigration Advocates Network and the American Bar Association. The new website responds to the crisis of unaccompanied immigrant minors in immigration court proceedings. They are leaving their homes for many reasons: to escape abuse, discrimination, gender-based violence, poverty, trafficking, or other desperate situations. Some may qualify to stay in the United States, but the laws and processes are complicated. In FY 2014 almost 70,000 children from Mexico and Central America crossed the United States’ southern border; a 77% increase from the previous year. Many of these immigrant minors do not have access to a lawyer, and the government is not mandated to provide one. Many children—toddlers through teenagers—arrive at court alone, and insufficient knowledge of their legal options is a barrier that often leads to deportation.
The site shares trusted legal information and referrals with advocates, children, and their guardians. Features include a legal directory where children can search for organizations providing pro bono services, as well as a number of plain-language Spanish and English documents on what to expect in immigration court, how to work with a lawyer, how to enroll in school, and more. The site also serves as a resource for lawyers new to immigration court; lawyers can access practice advisories and manuals and connect with organizations to volunteer with children.
The process by which unaccompanied children access services in the U.S. differs across city and immigration court jurisdiction. In Minnesota, volunteer attorneys coordinated by three major service providers gather at the Fort Snelling Court on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for case screening interviews for the unaccompanied children’s docket. In the coming months, the UAC site will expand information about collaborative efforts, such as this one, to explain how children access services in different cities and how volunteers can join the effort.
Visit the site at uacresources.org