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.
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 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.
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.
Local jails exist in nearly every town and city in America. While rarely on the radar of most Americans, they are the front door to the formal criminal justice system in a country that holds more people in custody than any other on the planet. Their impact is both far-reaching and profound: in the course of a typical year, there are nearly 12 million jail admissions—almost 20 times the number of annual admissions to state and federal prisons—at great cost to the people involved, their families and communities, and society at large. Through research, publications, and technical assistance to local jurisdictions, Vera aims to foster public debate and policy reform to reduce jail incarceration, repair the damage it causes, and promote safe, healthy communities.
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.
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.
Vera is developing a field-informed guidebook to advise law enforcement agencies on how to fill the knowledge and practice gap in effectively policing communities of color while building trust with the diverse communities they serve. The guidebook, known as the Police Connecting with Communities of Color Project (P3C) and funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, will contain research, interviews, and case studies, with officers of color providing the majority of the content.
Translating Justice works to overcome communication barriers between law enforcement and communities—such as immigrant enclaves—where many people do not speak or understand English well. The project provides police and law enforcement agencies with training, tailored consulting services, and research on promising practices in the field.
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).
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.