Unaccompanied Children Program

Since 2005, ORR has contracted with Vera to manage a national network of legal service providers for unaccompanied children. Currently, Vera staff oversees programs at 34 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 teach the children about their rights while in detention and the immigration court process.
  • Individual Screenings. Providers meet individually with all children to identify their legal needs and provide additional education about their rights and immigration law.
  • Free Legal Assistance, Referrals and Representation. Providers recruit, train, and mentor pro bono attorneys, and match children with pro bono representation or provide direct representation where possible.
  • Coordinated Services. Providers communicate with detention facility caseworkers, ORR staff, child welfare practitioners, and immigration authorities about unaccompanied children’s needs and issues.

Baltimore Initiative

In 2014, with the Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) at the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), Vera started the Baltimore Representation Initiative for Unaccompanied Children (BRIUC), a direct representation pilot program to fund legal representation and other related services for certain unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings before the Baltimore Immigration Court. This representation must be provided regardless of the child’s eligibility for immigration relief.

Remote Access Initiative

In 2015, Vera started the Remote Access Initiative (RAI), a pilot innovation project with the Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) at the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) to provide legal representation to certain children who, due to geographic distance from the immigration court and legal services, are less likely to be represented by counsel and more likely not to appear at their court hearings. RAI is designed to increase the effective and efficient adjudication of immigration proceedings for these children, who have crossed the U.S. border without a parent or legal guardian and live at least 100 miles from the Memphis or Atlanta Immigration Court. This initiative involves a unique collaboration between legal service providers and community-based organizations located across Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. RAI will also help to identify children who have been victims of human trafficking or abuse and, as appropriate, refer them to support services.