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Unaccompanied Children (UACs) are arriving in the U.S. in record numbers. They leave their homes for many reasons: to escape abuse, discrimination, gender-based violence, poverty, trafficking, or other desperate situations. Some may qualify to stay in the United States, but the laws and processes are complicated.

In FY 2014 almost 70,000 children from Mexico and Central America crossed the United States’ southern border; a 77% increase from the previous year. A child apprehended by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is sent to immigration court for “removal proceedings.”  The government becomes the caretaker of that child through the Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  Some children are sent to stay with relatives or guardians; others are placed in detention facilities while they await a court hearing. More than 400,000 children’s cases are pending in immigration court.

UACs who do not have an advocate in court are particularly vulnerable. Many children—toddlers through teenagers—arrive at court alone. Insufficient knowledge of their legal options is a barrier that often leads to deportation. An estimated 47% of UACs with a lawyer are allowed to stay in the United States, while 90% of those without a lawyer are deported and sent back to their home country. Immigration courts do not appoint lawyers to represent unaccompanied children. 

If you are an attorney or immigration advocate, the resources on this website will help you better defend and protect unaccompanied children. Click on the green box that says “Are you an attorney that can help?” to start.  If you are a child or guardian, this website will give you the resources to understand immigration law and help you connect with a lawyer. Click on the yellow box that says “Do you need legal help?” to start.