CAIR Coalition Launches Detained Children's Project

by Kathryn M. Doan, Esq.

In response to the legal needs of unaccompanied immigrant children being detained in Virginia, CAIR Coalition has started the Detained Children’s Project in partnership with the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law.  The project will provide legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Virginia, including “Know Your Rights” presentations, individual intakes, and pro bono placements.  CAIR Coalition will also accompany the children to their initial immigration court hearings.  CAIR Coalition staff will visit the facility twice a month and will be joined by trained law students from the University of Virginia who will assist with intake.

Each year, thousands of children enter the United States without a parent or adult guardian.   Some are coming to the United States to be reunited with family members, but many others are fleeing gang violence, domestic abuse and other dangerous situations at home.  Some are the victims of human trafficking.   In addition to the hardships they have suffered at home, many children making their way to the United States on their own become victimized a second time during the extremely dangerous journey to the United States.

Any child under the age of 18 detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) which can house them in a variety of settings while their immigration court proceedings are pending, including secure juvenile facilities, group homes and foster care placements.   However, while the government will provide unaccompanied immigrant children with shelter, it will not provide them with attorneys.  As a result, almost half of all children who appear before an immigration judge do not have legal representation.  Although many of these children may be eligible for some type of relief that would permit them to remain in the United States, it is virtually impossible for an adult, much less a vulnerable child, to successfully navigate the immigration process without the assistance of an attorney.

Initial funding for the Detained Children’s Project is being provided by the Vera Institute of Justice, which supports a network of over a dozen non-profit organizations that provide legal assistance to detained immigrant children in Chicago, New York City, Washington, DC, Miami, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Virginia, Portland Oregon and four sites in Texas.

CAIR Coalition is excited about this new opportunity to insure that unaccompanied immigrant children being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center have access to the legal assistance they need to protect their rights.


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