Immigrant Children's Protection Project

Giving Immigrant Children a Voice

The Immigrant Children’s Protection Project represents and advocates for detained and non-detained immigrant children who face the possibility of deportation to a dangerous homeland. Each year, tens of thousands of children arrive in the United States without a parent or guardian. Denied their childhood, many minors come to escape violent gang recruitment, acute poverty, abusive labor conditions, forced recruitment as child soldiers, forced child marriages, and female genital mutilation.

Unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings, like all immigrants in this situation, do not have access to court-appointed counsel. Less than half of the estimated 10,000 children per year entangled in the U.S. immigration system go through their hearings with any legal representation. NIJC works with a strong network of pro bono attorneys to ensure that every child who comes before the Chicago immigration court has access to legal counsel.

NIJC and its local and national partners collaborate to develop strategies that advocate for systemic change, identify gaps in the system, and propose recommendations for reform. NIJC meets frequently with federal government officials to educate them about the necessity of legal counsel for minors, both accompanied and unaccompanied.

Resources for unaccompanied immigrant children can be found here.

Photo credit: Rick Reinhard/Creative Commons
 

With the help of NIJC, 134 unaccompanied immigrant children were granted immigration relief in 2010.

Impact: A Promising Future after a Treacherous Childhood

When Luis* was young, his mother abandoned him in Honduras, leaving him alone with an alcoholic father who regularly beat him. When Luis was 15 years old, his father received a life sentence in Honduras for attempted murder. With no one to care for him, he made his way to the United States, where he was promptly detained in San Antonio, Texas, and placed in removal proceedings. When the government released Luis to live with family in Illinois, his relatives told him not to contact an immigration lawyer.