Each year thousands of children fleeing poverty, war, gangs, or abusive family relationships enter the U.S. unaccompanied by an adult or separated from their parents or legal guardians. Their journeys are hazardous and their youth makes them especially vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. These children come under the care and placement of the Division of Children’s Services (DCS), part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
In 2008 ICS through a contract with the Vera Institute of Justice began providing immigration legal services to these children, detained in staff-secure and secure facilities and more recently including shelter, transitional and long term foster care facilities here in Portland. The children range in age from as young as four years old up through 17 years.
ICS provides Know Your Rights orientations which teach children their rights while in detention and the immigration court process. We then meet individually with each child to identify their legal needs and continue educating them about their rights. ICS accompanies all the children for their appearances before immigration court.
Most of the children are reunified with a family member or sponsor. Some have legal relief and would be eligible to remain in the country legally. However, there is no funding for representation of these children and ICS looks to recruit private attorneys who are willing to provide a child pro bono legal representation. There are a number of times each year where outside assistance cannot be found and ICS feels compelled to provide their own pro bono assistance.
Immigration Policy Center recently found that a majority of children with attorneys show up for their immigration hearings, while unrepresented children are more likely to fail to appear. You can help ensure that a child is represented by contacting ICS if you are an attorney who would like to take a child’s case pro bono, or by donating to fund ICS’s representation for a child with no source of income
More on Unaccompaned Children:
Latino USA: Child Migrants Fight in Immigration Court to Stay in US
The Oregonian: Alone in the American legal system: It’s up to us to help undocumented children
New York Times: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis
VOX: America’s child migrant crisis, explained in two minutes