The number of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in the U.S. has grown exponentially in recent years. Most are escaping conflict and gang violence in their home countries. After arrival, they are scheduled for immigration hearings, but often face the court without legal representation.  This program uses the AmeriCorps service model to provide representation to unaccompanied children and to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of immigration court proceedings. Lawyers and paralegals serve as AmeriCorps members who provide legal services, specifically to children under the age of 16 who have been released from federal custody, have been notified to appear in immigration court, and have met other requirements. Vera is currently evaluating the jAC Program for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Department of Justice, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Project Objectives

  • To assess how the program increases representation of children and efficiency and effectiveness in the courts.

  • To assess how the program identifies child trafficking victims, builds pro bono capacity for representation, and strengthens the national service experience for members.

Key Fact

Unaccompanied children are represented by an attorney in only about 32% of cases pending in Immigration Court as of October 31, 2014, according to the latest data from Syracuse University.