How to help migrant children at the border

Have you read the frequent media reports on the number of children who have arrived unaccompanied on the Southwest border of the United States recently and want to help? Check out these resources on the issue and find out how you can learn more, volunteer, and stay connected.

Learn About the Issues

Facts about immigrant children at the border:

Read CILA's ABA CILA Fact Sheet: Unaccompanied Children at the Border which provides information regarding the systems involved and context to the current increase of child migrants arriving at the southwest U.S. border.

The unaccompanied child and youth experience:

Watch a video created by the ABA’s Commission on Immigration (COI) entitled Tu Futuro, Tu Voz (Your Future, Your Voice) to hear from four young adults, Jiveli, Nancy, Adolfo, and René, from Central America who came to the United States as unaccompanied children. They share what it was like to work with legal service providers as children and provide advice about the legal immigration process for youth.

Working with unaccompanied children and youth:

Watch a video co-created by CILA and South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) entitled Standing with Children: Unaccompanied Children and the Need for Pro Bono Representation to hear from legal staff providers and a pro bono attorney regarding what it is like to work with children in their immigration cases.

ABA policy recommendations:

Read the ABA's top policy recommendations for the immigration system, including issues affecting unaccompanied children in Achieving America’s Immigration Promise. The ABA also drafted the Standards for the Custody, Placement and Care; Legal Representation; and Adjudication of Unaccompanied Alien Children in the United States to provide guiding principles for children’s immigration law.

ABA Commission on Immigration blog:

Follow the blog Generating Justice: Immigration Reflections from the Border and Beyond. For example, a February 2021 blog post dives into additional policy changes and legislative action needed in “A Long Wait for Special Immigrant Juveniles Means a Risk of Deportation."

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering your time to help support nonprofit organizations working with children and youth in immigration cases is a fantastic way to get involved! There are a variety of skill sets that can support legal service providers working with children and youth seeking protection in the United States. Look locally to see what organizations need support.

Do you have language skills to offer?

Many organizations have volunteer opportunities to provide interpretation and translation support, either in person or remotely. For example, CILA’s sister project, ProBAR located in Harlingen, Texas has a program for volunteers to offer remote translation and interpretation. Sign up here or email volunteer@abaprobar.org.

Do you have strong administrative and organizational skills or experience as a legal assistant or paralegal?

Offer to volunteer with local nonprofit organizations to provide administrative support to the organization or to support a legal case. Some nonprofit organizations may pair a pro bono attorney with a volunteer administrative assistant or paralegal to work on a case. You can search for some of your local organizations at Immi, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net.

Do you have strong research skills?

Some organizations may need assistance from volunteers to research country conditions to help support clients’ asylum cases. You can search for some of your local organizations at Immi, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net.

Are you a law student?

Consider volunteering with an organization to offer legal research support or to research country conditions to support a child’s case. Additionally, many nonprofit organizations working with children and youth offer internship opportunities. You can search for some of your local organizations at Immi, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net. Also, consider opportunities with the ABA’s Commission on Immigration

Are you a health provider?

Many cases benefit from the knowledge of a health professional either through a supporting statement with expertise on a particular medical condition or through an evaluation of a client. There are several ways to get involved either through directly working with a nonprofit organization or joining efforts with an organization such as the Physicians for Human Rights or the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) clinical network to help provide evaluations.

Do you have a heart for working with youth and wish to be a child advocate?

Consider volunteering with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights as a Child Advocate in Houston, San Antonio, Chicago, Harlingen, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York, or Washington, DC.

Volunteer Opportunities for Attorneys

Thousands of young people in immigration court have no attorney at their side. Representation makes a significant difference in the lives of children facing deportation. Many children have legal relief available that could offer them protection and more security in the United States. The only thing missing is knowledge and guidance to navigate the system.

Are you an attorney wanting to help?

CILA hosts a platform, Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation, for attorneys to view available pro bono cases to work with children and youth in their immigration cases. There are opportunities nationwide. In most cases, no prior immigration experience is necessary; organizations can help provide training and resources. Additionally, CILA has a variety of free resources and trainings on our website to help support you in pro bono representation including CILA’s Pro Bono Guide. If you are a pro bono attorney in Texas, feel free to reach out to CILA for technical assistance support.

Other Ways to Get Connected

Advocate with local leaders for policy and legislative change. Visit the ABA Commission on Immigration's Legislation & Policy page to get ideas.

Join CILA’s quarterly e-newsletter for pro bono attorneys to stay updated on CILA’s resources and issues affecting children and youth.

Follow the ABA’s Commission on Immigration on Twitter @ABA_Immigration and Facebook.

Learn more about CILA by checking out CILA’s 2020 Annual Report.

Donate to CILA or your local provider working with children who are unaccompanied. You can search for many nonprofit immigration legal service providers at Immi, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net.

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