Vera is committed to providing unaccompanied children in the United States with access to high quality legal representation and a full understanding of their legal rights, while working closely with legal service providers to continue to expand representation to ensure that no child appears in immigration court alone.

Unaccompanied Children Program

Since 2005, Vera has managed a national network of legal service providers who assist unaccompanied children both in and released from federal custody. Currently, Vera staff oversees programs at 36 legal services organizations that provide assistance to children throughout the country. Children receive the following services:

  • Know Your Rights Orientations. Providers give group or individual presentations to newly arrived children at detention facilities prior to each child's first court appearance, which provides children with information about their rights while in detention and the immigration court process.
  • Individual Screenings. Providers meet individually with all children to identify their legal and social services needs and provide additional education about their rights and immigration law.
  • Free Legal Assistance, Referrals, and Representation. Providers facilitate legal referrals for children upon their release from custody, provide direct representation in certain circumstances, and recruit, train, and mentor pro bono attorneys and match children with pro bono representation where possible.
  • Coordinate Services. Providers communicate with detention facility caseworkers, ORR staff, child welfare practitioners, and immigration authorities about unaccompanied children's needs and issues.

Unaccompanied Minors Technical Assistance Network

In 2018, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) awarded funding to legal service organizations to provide legal representation to unaccompanied children facing removal proceedings in California. Vera has partnered with CDSS to provide legal training and technical assistance to these legal services organizations through the Unaccompanied Minors Technical Assistance (UMTA) Network. Through Vera’s work with the UMTA Network, Vera supports legal services organizations in training attorneys and other legal staff, developing best practices for serving unaccompanied children, strengthening knowledge and skills, building capacity, facilitating referrals and increasing overall effectiveness of legal services providers defending unaccompanied children in removal proceedings.