In 2014, the Charlotte Immigration Court had close to 3,000 juvenile cases, nearly tripling the juvenile case load in 2013. Seventy-eight percent of the children in immigration proceedings in 2014 were not represented by an attorney. These children are leaving their home countries alone, fleeing sexual assault, kidnapping, gang violence and abandonment. The Vera Institute of Justice estimates that up to 40% of these children may be eligible for immigration relief, but with no representation or legal assistance, they are given no opportunity to seek relief and often do not understand many aspects of the immigration court system, procedures and proceedings that they face.
With the help of local funding and the national Equal Justice Works justice AmeriCorps project, the Safe Child Immigrant Project was created.
As part of the Safe Child Immigrant Project (SCIP), the Equal Justice Works justice AmeriCorps fellows, along with three LSSP staff attorneys, represent Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) in Immigration Court proceedings. The team of fellow attorneys and other LSSP staff members work to screen, advise, educate and connect immigrant children as they move through the court system. There are more than 100 private attorneys helping these kids as well, providing pro bono representation and screening.
jAC attorneys provide free statewide legal representation for certain children who are currently in removal proceedings in immigration court, helping them explore what forms of immigration relief, if any, they qualify for. jAC attorneys also offer assistance to pro bono attorneys and LSSP staff attorneys for their cases involving UACs.
jAC attorneys participate in the IAP Project at the Charlotte Immigration Court, providing free consultations to children and education on the immigration court process. The attorneys participate in community groups which help UACs and the general immigrant population and also give presentations in the community about immigration issues affecting UACs and the general immigrant population.
jAC attorneys serve clients who fulfill the following criteria:
– Under the age of 16 at the time they received a Notice to Appear (NTA)
– Designated as an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC), meaning he or she crossed the U.S. border without a parent or guardian
– Had his or her first immigration court hearing on or after January 2, 2015.
The jAC attorneys are generally located in the Pro Bono Room at the Charlotte Immigration Court on days there are first-time juveniles on the dockets. Potential clients can also call the LSSP Spanish intake line at 1-800-247-1931 on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.