The recent “surge” in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border from Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, has been garnering a lot of attention from the media and concerned community members like you. These children range in age from as young as 3 to 18.
- Human Rights Initiative has been offering free representation to a small percentage of these unaccompanied minors for almost 10 years. Minors who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (see below) and fall within our mission may be able to get free legal services through Human Rights Initiative.
- In the last two years, HRI has also formed a partnership with Catholic Charities of Ft. Worth to offer legal screenings and Know Your Rights presentations to children in their shelters. In the last eight months, we have seen their short-term shelter grow from eight beds to 32 beds. HRI has continued to offer these services to all children in the shelter, despite being funded for only 16.
- In the last five years HRI has trained over 200 volunteer attorneys to learn what it takes to represent children for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Most recently HRI, in conjunction with Catholic Charities of Dallas and the Dallas Bar Association, conducted a training for over 60 attorneys on representing unaccompanied minors.
- Read more about these children in our recent post: What You Need to Know About UAC
Legal Screenings and Know Your Rights Presentations
HRI currently provides legal screenings and Know Your Rights (KYR) Presentations for children housed in the Catholic Charities Ft. Worth Short Term Shelter. The KYR Presentations help explain to the children their right to an attorney and that they will be required to go to court in front of a judge. The legal screenings are conducted by HRI attorneys and volunteer attorneys to assess if these children have any potential legal relief in their future. Once the child is reunited with a parent (most often not in the Dallas area), the shelter caseworker will ensure that the parent is provided with a packet of information related to their child’s immigration case. Additionally, they will be given referrals for free legal services in their area, if they exist. Many children are reunified in areas of the country where free or low-cost immigration legal services do not exist.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
A small percentage of these children are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, allowing them to remain safely in the U.S., attend school, and obtain lawful permanent residency. To be eligible for this status, children must show that they have been abused, abandoned, or neglect by one or both parents. HRI provides completely free legal representation to children who fall within our mission and are eligible for this status. HRI’s in-house attorneys and large network of pro bono lawyers work together to help these children non only obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) but also legal permanent residency (green card) within one year. Read a story about one of our most heartbreaking stories in the Dallas Observer here.
What Can You Do?
Recently, Judge Clay Jenkins announced a plan for 2,000 unaccompanied minors to be housed in Dallas. The plan is still coming together and it is still unclear how quickly these minors will make their way to Dallas and where they will be housed. At the moment, HRI is working hard to make sure the minors who are already here in Ft. Worth are getting the services that they need. If you’d like to help we offer the options:
- If you are a Spanish-speaking licensed attorney or paralegal and would like to help with our legal screenings and intakes, please contact Elisabeth Hagberg, Volunteer Coordinator at EHagberg[at]hrionline.org.
- HRI is holding two trainings this week:
- Thursday, July 31: CLE (.25 ethics): “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Training through Human Rights Initiative,” noon-1 p.m., HRI Offices, 2801 Swiss Ave., Dallas, 75204. RSVP to Elisabeth Hagberg at email@example.com. Sponsored by the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas
- Friday, Aug. 1, CLE (.25 ethics): “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Training through Human Rights Initiative,” noon-1 p.m., Perkins Coie, 500 N. Akard, Ste. 3300, Dallas, 75201. RSVP to Elisabeth Hagberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sponsored by the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.
- HRI is holding two trainings this week:
- If you are interested in helping shelters with in-kind donations, please contact our shelter partner, Catholic Charities of Ft. Worth.
- HRI is currently underfunded for the services we are providing for our shelter children. If you’d like to help by making a monetary donation, please visit our donation page.
- You can also mail a check payable to:
Human Rights Initiative 2801 Swiss Ave Dallas, TX 75204
All monetary donations will be acknowledged and are tax-deductible.
Thank you for your interest and passion in helping this children. They are in need of our support in every way. We hope you will join us for this journey ahead.