Justice Department and CNCS Announce $1.8 Million in Grants to Enhance Immigration Court Proceedings and Provide Legal Assistance to Unaccompanied Children
The Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which administers AmeriCorps national service programs, has awarded $1.8 million in grants to increase the effective and efficient adjudication of immigration proceedings involving certain children who have crossed the U.S. border without a parent or legal guardian. The grants will be disbursed through justice AmeriCorps and will enable legal aid organizations to enroll approximately 100 lawyers and paralegals to represent children in immigration proceedings. The justice AmeriCorps members will also help to identify children who have been victims of human trafficking or abuse and, as appropriate, refer them to support services and authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes.
“The increasing numbers of unaccompanied children appearing in our immigration courts present an urgent challenge: how best to conduct immigration proceedings more efficiently while maintaining our commitment to following the procedures required by law and protecting the rights of these children.” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We are addressing that challenge by using these funds to facilitate access to legal representation for some of the most vulnerable of these children. By increasing the number of represented children, we will enhance the resources available to both the children and the courts to better serve the administration of justice in all cases.”
“Young immigrant children often enter the U.S. after a long and dangerous journey,” said CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer. “This funding will enable organizations to engage AmeriCorps members in providing critical support for these children, many of whom are escaping abuse, persecution, or violence. As a result of this partnership, AmeriCorps will play a role in improving the effective and efficient adjudication of these very difficult cases.”
The grants were awarded to Equal Justice Works, Casa Cornelia Law Center, Catholic Legal Services of Miami, Legal Services of South Central Michigan, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Their programs will serve children in immigration court locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and Seattle after justice AmeriCorps members attend a national training program later this year. The training will include immigration laws and regulations applicable to unaccompanied children; immigration proceedings practice and procedure; ethics for professionals working with children and youths; and trauma-informed and culturally-appropriate models of interacting with unaccompanied children.
“After more than a year of planning, we are pleased to see justice AmeriCorps taking flight,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West, who oversaw the development and implementation of the program for the Department of Justice. “The justice AmeriCorps program will address several important goals: enhancing the efficacy and efficiency of our immigration courts; protecting vulnerable populations; and increasing national service.”
“With the awarding of these grants, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will see an increase in the representation of children in immigration court proceedings,” said EOIR Deputy Director Ana M. Kocur. “This public-private partnership is the realization of creative government thinking to increase efficiencies in the immigration courts.”
For more information about the justice AmeriCorps program please visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.
The justice AmeriCorps program is a strategic partnership between the Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service to provide legal aid to vulnerable populations. This particular program responds to Congress’ direction to the Executive Office for Immigration Review “to better serve vulnerable populations such as children and improve court efficiency through pilot efforts aimed at improving legal representation.”
EOIR is an agency within the Department of Justice. Under delegated authority from the Attorney General, immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals interpret and adjudicate immigration cases according to U.S. immigration laws. EOIR’s immigration judges conduct administrative court proceedings in immigration courts located throughout the nation. They determine whether foreign-born individuals—whom the Department of Homeland Security charges with violating immigration law—should be ordered removed from the United States or should be granted relief from removal and be permitted to remain in this country. The Board of Immigration Appeals primarily reviews appeals of decisions by immigration judges. EOIR’s Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer adjudicates immigration-related employment cases. EOIR is committed to ensuring fairness in all of the cases it adjudicates.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund and other programs, and leads the president's national call to service initiative United We Serve. For more information, visit: www.nationalservice.gov.