Statement on Supporting Immigrant Children from Kica Matos, Director of Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice

Welcoming and accepting immigrants is an admirable part of the fabric of our shared national history. To support this, for almost 15 years the Vera Institute of Justice has worked to ensure that there is due process for all immigrants at risk of deportation. We work with long-term permanent residents who are visa holders and with people along a spectrum of immigration statuses, including many who are members of mixed-status families or have U.S.-citizen children. We also work with children fleeing to the United States from loss, persecution, trauma and extreme poverty in their native lands. Through our Unaccompanied Children Program and a remarkable team of three dozen dedicated legal service providers, we work to ensure that all these children have access to legal support and representation. To date, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, this work has been funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Along with all of America, we have been appalled in recent days at the stories and images of the conditions that immigrant children, including babies and toddlers, have been subjected to after crossing our borders seeking asylum. The most basic needs and protection of these children are threatened at a time when they need care and support more than ever. This includes some of the funding for legal services for these vulnerable children, including for children being placed in Emergency Reception Centers. At a time of high uncertainty, we are using every means possible to ensure that the services given by our legal service providers continue unimpeded. We are seeking clarity from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which funds the Unaccompanied Children’s Program, about this funding. We believe these services should be provided under our contract as well as under law.

We also stand with our allies to support all the needs and rights of these children and of immigrants throughout our nation.