The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition is the only non-profit organization in the Washington, D.C. area with a legal services program focused exclusively on assisting detained immigrant men, women, and children in jails and juvenile facilities in Maryland and Virginia.

Each year thousands of children under the age of 18 enter the United States unaccompanied by a parent or other caregiver. The vast majority of these children are fleeing the horrific levels of violence in their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Once children are detained at the border, they are put in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) which then places them in one of a number of juvenile facilities anywhere in the United States, pending possible reunification with family members.

The Detained Children’s Program provides legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at juvenile facilities in Maryland and Virginia. The facilities include ORR long-term foster care programs, large shelter programs, and secure detention facilities. Each year, CAIR Coalition serves over 500 detained immigrant children.


We serve children between the ages of 9 and 17. The vast majority of the children that we serve have been severely traumatized by the violence they have experienced or witnessed, either in their home country or during the journey to the United States. These children are eligible for asylum, a special immigrant juvenile visa (based on the abuse, abandonment or neglect of one or both parents), and/or a visa based on their status as victims of sex and labor trafficking.


Our services include “Know Your Rights” presentations, individual consultations, and accompanying children to their first immigration court hearing in Arlington, Virginia, or Baltimore, Maryland. We also provide direct representation in removal proceedings to children seeking repatriation, children reunifying from ORR programs in Virginia with family members in Maryland, DC, and Virginia, and to children facing prolonged detention. We serve children through a combination of in-house representation and pro bono placement with local law firms.

We provide legal referrals for children reunifying outside of our local area, post-18 planning services, and social services referrals. In addition, we also provide backpacks to unaccompanied children through the Safe Travels Backpack program and regularly participate in presentations in the community on immigration options for children. Our staff also has a practice manual on representing unaccompanied children which can be found here.