What is CILA?
We are CILA. The acronym stands for Children’s Immigration Law Academy, and our work is to support legal service providers who represent and work with youth nationwide on their immigration matters. We offer those providers training, individual support when they have questions about cases, and written resources. We do not provide direct representation to youth in their proceedings, but we created this page to offer you all information so that you can better understand the immigration system in the United States, where to obtain government information about your cases, and how to find services available to help you.
Who is this information for?
This page is dedicated to providing information for youth who find themselves in removal proceedings or with a question about their immigration situation. We hope this information is helpful. If you are looking for information that is not found on this page or about your case specifically, it would be best to speak to a legal service provider on the Free Legal Answers service of the American Bar Association (ABA). Through Free Legal Answers, you can ask a question virtually and you will receive a response.
A New Path:
My Toolkit for Navigating Life in the United States
Listen to My Voice
A Video for Youth and Advocates
This video was created by CILA for all those who help immigrant youth from Indigenous or Garífuna communities. It offers the perspective of three of them. Anabel, Vicente, and Nancy entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors and they benefitted from the assistance of legal services organizations. They have some advice to share. All we have to do is listen to their voices.
Your Future, Your Voice
A Video Made by Youth and for Youth
This video was made by individuals who were previously detained and fighting their immigration cases as minors. Today they are all adults and permanent residents or citizens of the United States. In the video they explain how they felt when they were detained and why they chose to trust in the legal services offered to them. Creating this video was the idea of one of the individuals who shares her story, Jiveli Banegas.
Understanding the U.S. Immigration System
We are not your lawyer and we do not offer direct legal assistance. It is important to consult with an attorney who specializes in U.S. immigration law about your situation, especially if you currently find yourself in removal proceedings.
The information that we provide here is basic information about the system so that you can better understand how everything works. You should know that if you find yourself in removal proceedings, or if you simply want to file an application to obtain legal status, you have the right to an attorney, but the government will not provide you with one. You will have to pay an attorney, or if you cannot, seek help with a non-profit organization. You can find a list of legal service providers here. Just select your state
and then look for the city where the immigration court closest to you is located. It is important to know that there are notaries that offer assistance with applications, but watch out, notaries in the United States are not attorneys. Their work is to certify the identity of a person that signs a document,
but they do not have knowledge of immigration law in the United States. There are individuals who have paid a lot of money to notaries who misguided them in their cases.
Each immigration situation is different. It may be that you have several ways to obtain lawful status, only one way, or no way at the current time. What is clear is that the immigration laws change frequently, and for that reason, the help of someone who knows the laws and your case well is very important. If you want information on some ways to fight deportation and/or file an application to obtain lawful status, you can consult the internet page created by Immi. It explains various ways to remain in the United States lawfully, including some that tend to be common among youth like asylum and the special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) visa. For more information, see: Immi, Free and simple information for immigrants
Another great resource is ImportaMi. It helps unaccompanied children across the U.S. get access to legal services and local resources. To access their page in English, click here
Important Information for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Youth
If you are a youth with special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), we have gathered the following information so that you can understand deferred action and your access to a work authorization document:
Public Service Announcement:
Tips to avoid immigration scams
Whether you are exploring options to obtain lawful status in the United States or preparing to appear in immigration court, please keep these important facts in mind to protect you and your family’s future. This video was made by the American Bar Association's (ABA) Immigration Commission.
For More Information About Finding Free Legal Services
To Locate an Adult Detained by ICE
To Seek Help
If you find yourself in a difficult situation, look for help. There are many organizations and projects dedicated to helping youth. If English is hard for you to understand, don’t stop yourself because of that. There is help in Spanish as well. See our Spanish page here.