Unaccompanied Children Resource Guide

June 1, 2021

Unaccompanied children are among the most vulnerable individuals attempting to navigate the U.S. immigration system, often with no access to legal counsel. These children embark on the long and dangerous journey to the U.S. to escape violence, poverty, natural disasters, abuse, discrimination, gender-based violence, human trafficking or other desperate situations.

Over the past few years, the numbers of unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border has risen dramatically creating an urgent humanitarian need. It is estimated that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has more than 20,000 young people under its care. This situation is not new, it is a direct side-effect of a broken immigration system in dire need of reform. However, the current increase we are witnessing is a result of policies such as “Remain in Mexico” which impacted more than 71,000 asylum seekers by forcing them to wait in Mexico while pursuing asylum in the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic further complicated the situation at the southern border when Title 42 was put in place, a policy that closed the border to nearly all asylum seekers and expelled them back to Mexico or their home countries in turn separating more families and leaving children under Border Patrol custody.

WHAT IS BEING DONE
In Los Angeles County, critical legal and human service programs are underway to ensure support of unaccompanied children released to sponsors in the region. Federal, County and local agencies are in the process of opening additional emergency intake shelters to house unaccompanied children. Shelters have been set up at the Long Beach Convention Center and the Pomona Fairplex, which are meant to provide a safe environment for these children until they can be reunited with family or placed with a sponsor.

THE NEED FOR A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
A robust non-profit and philanthropic infrastructure is needed to continue supporting these children as they integrate into our region and communities. Once reunited with family members or placed with a sponsor, access to legal and wraparound case management services are critical to help children thrive and assimilate to their new environment.

  • Convening, Coordination and Case Management Systems: Coordination support is needed between legal services providers, social services organizations, school districts, and other social services to ensure children and families are connected to appropriate services and resources.
  • Legal Services: Access to legal services is critical to ensure fairness and due process for children and families who are seeking asylum.
  • Policy and Advocacy: To hold our elected officials accountable and ensure government is responsive to the needs of these children and their families.

Thousands of children have fallen victim to a broken immigration system that has left them with life-long trauma. As we look forward, we have the unique opportunity to advocate for new ways of approaching this issue that are grounded in dignity, respect and compassion.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
Many donors have reached out to the California Community Foundation with an interest in how they can show their support. Below is a list of nonprofit organizations providing a combination of legal, housing and case management services.

501(c)(3)s to consider supporting:

  • Public Counsel: Public Counsel provides full scope legal representation to over 200 children annually and secures permanent residency in the U.S. for over 90 percent of the children they serve. The organization also provides extensive legal training to advocates across the U.S. Through the organization’s impact work (class action litigation), Public Counsel has insured unaccompanied children are afforded their rights under U.S. law, and continues to advocate for fair and humane protection for all children arriving alone in the U.S.
  • Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef): ImmDef is currently providing direct legal representation to over 900 children who entered the country as unaccompanied children and were placed in removal proceedings. With the addition of Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) in Long Beach and Pomona, ImmDef will serve an additional 3,500 children this year with Know-Your-Rights presentations across both locations.
  • Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA): CHIRLA is currently providing additional paralegal support and legal services to children and their families, as well as operating a dedicated hotline for parents and families to support them in reuniting with their children. The services offered through the hotline include a free legal consultation to parents along with background check referral and analysis, assistance filling out forms to expedite reunification, and legal support to children upon release into communities.
  • Central American Resource Center (CARECEN):CARECEN’s Deportation Defense Unit has represented upwards of 300 unaccompanied children annually since 2015. In addition to providing legal representation, CARECEN has made considerable efforts to provide programming to help address migrant youth’s immediate needs such as housing, health, and case management.
  • Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (PEOC): PEOC is supporting migrant children at the Pomona Fairplex with a two-prong approach that includes supporting with legal services as well as with logistics and volunteer coordination. In addition to providing legal services, PEOC is also collecting food vouchers, shoes, clothes and other supplies.
  • Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project: Through the Direct Representation Program, Esperanza staff attorneys provide legal representation to hundreds of unaccompanied children. Esperanza’s holistic approach includes providing group orientations, individual screenings, workshops and referrals for legal assistance. The organization also operates a call center to assist unaccompanied children and their sponsors and is piloting a non-legal case management service to ensure children are connected to the critical social services they need.
  • Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (CIELO): CIELO provides trained Indigenous interpreters in cases of family reunification in which the family’s primary language is not Spanish and is beginning to provide in-person interpretation for the children in detention. The organization will be launching a mobile application to facilitate access to our network interpreters. Through their Cultural Awareness training CIELO has worked to highlight the displacement and cultural-linguistic barriers faced by Indigenous migrant communities.
  • Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition: LBIRC launched the #ProtectionNotDetention campaign in early April as a result of the opening of the emergency intake sites at the Long Beach Convention Center. LBIRC’s goal is to ensure oversight of the Long Beach facility by creating a community oversight committee that will ensure a speedy and safe reunification, closure of the facility by August 2, 2021, no Customs and Border Patrol or ICE presence in Long Beach and that the facility meets and exceeds the standards of care set by the Flores Settlement Agreement.
  • Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund (SALEF): SALEF provides wrap around services for Migrant Transitional Aged Youth (Migrant TAY) through comprehensive client centered trauma-informed case management over a 12- 24-month period. The organization’s system of care consists of conducting outreach and education to local high schools, youth serving institutions, Services Planning Areas (SPA) providers, the Office of Refugee resettlement, and other agencies to reach Migrant Transitional Age Youth and provide assistance in navigating resources for housing, food security, medical, behavioral health, legal, mentorship and educational services.
  • Local Support in City of Long Beach: Consider donating to the Long Beach Community Foundation’s Long Beach Migrant Children Support Fund, which is accepting monetary donations from community members, local organizations and businesses to provide assistance and supportive resources to migrant children at the Long Beach shelter.

Sources

A Guide to Title 42 Expulsions at the Border

Fact Sheet: Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Unaccompanied Children Program Fact Sheet; Fact Sheet by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Children on the Run: Unaccompanied children leaving Central American and Mexico and the need for international Protection

Black Lives at the Border
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