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Center on Immigration and Justice

Vera's Center on Immigration and Justice (CIJ) works with government, nonprofit organizations, and communities to improve government systems that affect immigrants and their families. CIJ focuses on two objectives: increasing detained immigrants’ access to legal information and counsel, and improving relationships between immigrant communities and law enforcement officials. The center oversees two major federal programs, develops and implements pilot programs, provides technical assistance, and conducts evaluation and empirical research.

The center’s work includes:

Legal Information and Services for Detained Noncitizens
Many detained noncitizens facing deportation must represent themselves in immigration court because they do not have the right to government-funded legal assistance. This means immigration judges must use court time to inform detained persons of their rights, slowing down immigration proceedings. Lack of counsel also frequently prolongs the periods immigrants are detained. The Legal Orientation Program and the Unaccompanied Children Program, conducted in partnership with government and a nationwide network of legal services subcontractors, provide legal information and services to detained adults and children, and in turn, make immigration courts more efficient.

Policing in Immigrant Communities
Differing cultural norms and fear of police can be barriers to the trust and confidence needed for law enforcement agencies to serve immigrant communities. People who do not speak English well or fear deportation may choose not to report a crime or cooperate with law enforcement personnel. Vera's projects work with community members, as well as government and law enforcement officials, to help police cultivate, maintain—and in some cases, restore—partnerships with immigrant communities. The projects also identify and disseminate information about promising practices and practical strategies for enhancing police-immigrant collaboration.

 


Vera’s Commitment to Justice for Immigrants

Vera created the Center on Immigration and Justice to address the challenges presented by the convergence of the criminal justice and immigration systems. In the late 1990s, Vera designed, operated, and evaluated the Appearance Assistance Program (AAP) in partnership with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The AAP sought to reduce the government’s use of detention and ensure that people placed in this alternative to detention complied with the immigration court and deportation processes. Program participants achieved high levels of compliance with their immigration court obligations (91 percent) at a sharply lower cost to the government than detention.

For more information about Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice, contact CIJcoordinator@vera.org.

Projects

Compstat 2.0

Compstat 2.0, implemented in partnership with the Police Foundation, expands on the metrics used in Compstat to include data central to the success of true community policing, including data related to citizen satisfaction, procedural justice, problem-oriented policing, complaints, and use of force. Compstat 2.0 leverages the strengths of Compstat to help police reduce or prevent crime and enhance their ability to build trust and accountability with their communities. This project will seed an initiative to develop, test, and implement similar models nationwide. 

Engaging Police in Immigrant Communities (EPIC)

The Engaging Police in Immigrant Communities (EPIC) project is a national effort to identify and assess promising law enforcement practices that cultivate trust and collaboration with immigrant communities. The project uses information collected from a comprehensive study of hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country to offer practical solutions and models for other policing agencies to use to strengthen relationships with the immigrant communities they serve.

Immigrant Youth Participatory Action Research

In 2013, Vera and Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice embarked on a community-based research project to better understand the needs and experiences of unaccompanied immigrant youth living in New York City. With funding from Leon Lowenstein Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the Viola W. Bernard Foundation, researchers focused on issues youth often encounter, such as child welfare, immigration, education, mental and physical health care, employment, and access to justice. These findings aim to better inform local government policies and community services.

Improving Trafficking Victim Identification Study

In 2006, with funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Vera and diverse local stakeholders launched the New York City Trafficking Assessment Project (NYCTAP) which led to the creation of a screening tool to identify likely victims of trafficking, and accompanying guidelines for the tool’s administration. In 2011, Vera was awarded a grant from the NIJ to field test and validate this tool to get closer to a meaningful and practical process for identifying trafficking victims. In 2014, the validated Trafficking Victim Identification Tool and screening guidelines were released along with a research summary and technical report.

Legal Orientation Program

The Legal Orientation Program (LOP) was created to inform immigrant detainees about their rights, immigration court, and the detention process. On behalf of the federal government’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, program staff work with nonprofit legal service agencies to provide the program at 30 detention facilities across the country.

National Qualified Representative Program

The National Qualified Representative Program (NQRP) provides legal representation for unrepresented immigrants who are detained in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and have been found by an Immigration Judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to be incompetent to represent themselves because of a serious mental disorder.

New York Immigrant Family Unity Project

The Vera-administered New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation. NYIFUP, which has received $4.9 million in funding from the New York City Council for the current fiscal year, provides detained indigent immigrants facing deportation at New York’s Varick Street Immigration Court with free, high-quality legal representation. The project, which seeks to keep immigrants with their families and in their communities, will also serve detained New York City residents whose deportation cases are being heard in nearby New Jersey locations.

Police Connecting with Communities of Color

Vera developed a field-informed guidebook series to advise law enforcement agencies on how to fill the knowledge and practice gap in effectively policing and building trust with the diverse communities they serve. This three book series—written for police, by police—was developed to help police officers use community policing strategies to build trust and foster positive relationships. The guidebooks—known as Police Perspectives: Building Trust in a Diverse Nation—come at a time when many law enforcement agencies are, more so than ever, seeking ways to meaningfully engage with communities of color, as well as youth, immigrant, and transgender communities, among others.

Translating Justice

The Translating Justice Initiative aims to enhance access for those who experience communication and cultural barriers in the justice system. It assists victims services providers, law enforcement, legal services providers and others who work in the justice system to overcome communication and cultural barriers with people who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing (D/HOH) through training, tailored assistance, published resources, and research on promising practices.

U-Visa Training for Law Enforcement

Vera works with law enforcement agencies to provide training on the U-visa, which provides legal immigration status for victims of crime who cooperate with law enforcement.

Unaccompanied Children Program

The Unaccompanied Children Program coordinates a national effort to increase pro bono legal representation for immigrant children in removal (deportation) proceedings without a parent or legal guardian. These children may be fleeing poverty, war, or other dangerous circumstances on their own, or they may have lost contact with an adult along the way. They are detained in federal custody in shelters or detention centers contracted by the Division of Children’s Services (DCS, formerly DUCS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

United Communities

The United Communities project builds law enforcement’s capacity to engage Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities in preventing crime. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services funded Vera to partner with three law enforcement agencies and explore the challenges and opportunities of working with AMEMSA communities to support homeland security goals. The project generated information and resources relevant to community-policing activities in other jurisdictions.

Police Perspectives Guidebook Series: Building Trust in a Diverse Nation
02/12/2016
Law enforcement officers must be able to fairly and effectively engage with all communities in their jurisdiction. As the country continues to diversify, officers must cultivate trust and collaboration with communities that have various languages, cultures, and customs, to ensure public safety for...
Language Access Resources for Working with Unaccompanied Children
11/12/2015
A significant number of children who enter Office of Refugee Resettlement custody do not speak English. Communicating with these children can be challenging for attorneys and other service providers. To respond to this need, Vera’s Unaccompanied Children Legal Services Program has produced three...
Struggle for Identity and Inclusion: Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth in New York City
08/04/2015
Youth have been arriving at U.S. borders on their own since the early days of Ellis Island, but it was not until the summer of 2014—when the number of unaccompanied immigrant youth arriving to the United States from Central America increased nearly tenfold from recent years—that “child migrants”...
Uniting Communities Post-9-11: Tactics for Cultivating Community Partnerships with Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities
03/12/2015
To help local law enforcement agencies negotiate the cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, and language barriers that exist between them and Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities, Vera has produced Uniting Communities Post-9/11. Funded by the Department of Justice’s...
02/03/2016
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12/07/2015
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Unlike in the criminal justice system, people in deportation proceedings do not have the right to counsel to assist in their legal defense. As of November 2015, however, 40 New Yorkers confronted with deportation proceedings at the Ulster...
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Oren Root
Director, Center on Immigration and Justice
Laura Simich
Research Director, Center on Immigration and Justice
Anne Marie Mulcahy
Director of the Unaccompanied Children Program, Center on Immigration and Justice
Stacey Strongarone
Deputy Director, Center on Immigration and Justice, LA office
Annie Chen
Associate Program Director, Center on Immigration and Justice
Leandra Naranjo
Senior Program Associate
Bettina Rodriguez Schlegel
Senior Program Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
Caitlin Gokey
Senior Program Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
William Castillo Guardado
Program Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
Karen Mallozzi
Research Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
Grace Paras
Program Analyst, Center on Immigration and Justice
Shayna Scott
Program Analyst, Center on Immigration and Justice
Marina Caeiro
Program Director, Center on Immigration and Justice
Michael Corradini
Program Director, Center on Immigration and Justice
Zerlina Chiu
Program Analyst, Center on Immigration and Justice
Tammy Cho
Research Analyst, Center on Immigration and Justice
Gregory Pleasants
Senior Advisor, Center on Immigration and Justice
Lauren Wyatt
Program Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
Jennifer Gill
Regional Manager, Center on Immigration and Justice, DC office
Jessica Slattery
Program Analyst, Center on Immigration and Justice
Alyssa Snider
Program Analyst, Center on Immigration and Justice
Jennifer Stave
Senior Research Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
Noelle Smart
Research Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice
Shaina Aber
Regional Manager, Center on Immigration and Justice, LA office

Government and Foundation Partners

Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), U.S. Department of Justice

Ford Foundation

Legal Momentum

National Institute of Justice

Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), U.S. Department of Justice

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
 


Legal Orientation Program (LOP): Service Providers

Arizona
Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

California
ABA Immigration Justice Project of San Diego
Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Colorado
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

Florida
Catholic Charities Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami 
Americans for Immigrant Justice

Georgia
Catholic Charities of Atlanta

Louisiana 
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge

New Jersey
Legal Services of New Jersey

New Mexico
Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services

New York
Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project
The Legal Aid Society

Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

Texas
ABA South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project
American Gateways (formerly Political Asylum Project of Austin)
Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services  
YMCA of Greater Houston

Virginia
Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition

Washington
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
 


Unaccompanied Children Program: Service Providers

Arizona
Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

California
Casa Cornelia Law Center
Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project
Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Kids in Need of Defense
Legal Services for Children

Connecticut
Connecticut Legal Services

Florida
Florida Equal Justice Center
Americans for Immigrant Justice

Georgia
The Latin American Association

Illinois
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
National Immigrant Justice Center

Maryland
Kids in Need of Defense

Massachusetts
Kids in Need of Defense
Ascentria Care Alliance, Immigration Legal Assistance Program

Michigan
Michigan State University College of Law, Immigration Law Clinic

New Jersey
Kids in Need of Defense

New York
Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of New York
Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project
Kids in Need of Defense
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Pennsylvania
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Jewish Family & Children's Services of Pittsburgh

Oregon
Immigration Counseling Service

Texas
ABA South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project 
St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance (Cabrini Center), Catholic Charities of Houston
Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas
Kids in Need of Defense
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Virginia
Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition
Kids in Need of Defense

Washington, DC
Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition
Kids in Need of Defense
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Washington (state)
Kids in Need of Defense