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Help for unaccompanied migrant children
Faith in Action, GBCS
February 10, 2015
Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors Receives Grant from UMCOR
AUSTIN, Texas — In June 2014, the number of unaccompanied children (UAC) apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border reached its highest level to date: 10,622 in one month. After spending weeks in a government-approved shelter, most would be released to live with family members in the United States. While striving to adjust to their new lives, new schools and new friends, these children also had to cope with their grueling and interminable deportation proceedings.
Approximately 350 of these unaccompanied children were sent to live with relatives here. Many of them were fleeing horrific gang violence or family abuse. If deported back to Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala, they would face torture, brutality, even death. These children needed help. They needed advocates. Most of all, they needed good lawyers.
Without legal representation, unaccompanied children have little hope for a happy ending to their story. Those fortunate enough to have attorneys are nearly five times more likely to be allowed to stay legally in the United States than those without.
Enter Austin Justice For Our Neighbors (ARJFON), which announced its intention to focus on UAC cases in July. It was a logical and natural step for them, explains Julie Flanders, ARJFON’s legal director, as so many of their cases “involve women and children who have suffered abuses, making them eligible for special protections.”
Julie herself has a strong background in representing unaccompanied children, and she has spent a significant amount of time at the border, developing relationships with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, with other immigrant aid groups, and with all the major players in the UAC crisis. “I knew exactly what needed to be done,” Flanders says. “We just didn’t have enough attorneys to do it.”
Enter the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which offered a $100,000 grant to National Justice For Our Neighbors. In partnership with a JFON site, the grant would address the need for legal representation for unaccompanied children. But, first, NJFON and ARJFON had to write the proposal.
Thanks to UMCOR, Austin JFON now has a new attorney, Rebecca Rosenberg, to focus entirely on its UAC program. ARJFON also has a new community liaison/legal assistant, Piper Madison. Due to the partnership with UMCOR and NJFON, Austin JFON is now in the position to become a leading voice in UAC legal representation, not just for the JFON network, but for the immigrant legal aid community.
Read the complete story here: http://umc-gbcs.org/faith-in-action/help-for-unaccompanied-migrant-children
Austin JFON will be presenting the program at the May 14 MFSA meeting at Saint John’s UMC.
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