New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children and Members Hails Groundbreaking $ 3 Million National Program for Unaccompanied Minors and Other New Jersey Immigrant Youth

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New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children and Members hails groundbreaking $ 3 million national program for unaccompanied minors and other New Jersey immigrant youth

June 24, 2021 – The New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children and member organizations, including Kids in Need of Defense, American Friends Service Committee, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, applaud New Jersey lawmakers for creating the very first program funded by the New Jersey. State of NJ to provide legal representation. and case management for unaccompanied minors and young immigrants in a similar situation. The Consortium, a coalition of state-wide legal providers, healthcare providers and community organizations, fought with its members for the $ 3 million initiative, which was adopted. Thursday by the legislature as part of the state budget deal. With the governor’s signature, New Jersey will become the second state in the country after California to create a state-funded legal representation program for unaccompanied minors, and the first in the country to include in its scope of application. young people in a similar situation, including children arriving from the Stay in Mexico program.

“Most of the children and youth the government is trying to remove from New Jersey are unrepresented. No one should go to immigration court alone, and it is just inhumane to require that of children. Many newly arrived children also find it difficult to enroll in school, access health care and exercise other basic rights. We commend the Governor and the Legislature for responding to the moral call to action with this milestone, ”said Emily Chertoff, Executive Director of the Consortium.

Jazmin Margalef, a former undocumented youth leader at the Consortium, said: “For many years, I struggled to afford legal services, which prolonged my undocumented status and left me in a dark place. Access to free legal services would radically change my life. I would be able to live a life without fear of the future.

Members of the consortium, who have worked collaboratively for years to improve access to justice for immigrant children and youth in New Jersey, welcomed the state’s commitment:

Gilda Holguin, Acting Attorney General of the Newark Office for Children in Need of Defense (KIND), a national organization dedicated to the representation of unaccompanied children in their immigration procedures, said: State. Many unaccompanied children are fleeing pervasive violence, have been abandoned or have lost their guardians. Without a lawyer to represent them in their deportation proceedings, children risk being returned to places where they risk serious harm and have no one to protect them. KIND commends Governor Murphy and New Jersey lawmakers for their leadership in addressing the need for legal representation and access to social services for these children in our state.

“There is a huge unmet need for free and expert representation of unaccompanied children in New Jersey removal proceedings and we commend the state for its leadership in providing public funds to defend these children against deportation. . The AFSC has represented immigrant children for many years and we have seen first-hand the significant impact that a lawyer has on a child’s case before an immigration judge. No one should have to navigate our oppressive, Byzantine immigration system alone and this is especially true for children, ”said Nicole Miller, Director of Legal Services for the Immigrant Rights Program of the American Friends Service Committee.

Kiera LoBreglio, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, said: “No child should have to face an immigration judge alone. This essential funding brings us one step closer to that goal. “

Randi Mandelbaum Clinical Professor of Rutgers Law School, whose clinic represents dozens of unaccompanied minors, said: “This money could not have come at a more critical time. New Jersey expects to receive nearly 5,000 unaccompanied children this year alone, and this is in addition to the thousands who have arrived in previous years. No child should have to appear in court without a lawyer, especially against government prosecutors trying to have them deported. “

Johana, former young client of a member of the Consortium, echoed the importance of a lawyer, saying, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my lawyers. “

The need for state funding to provide legal services to immigrant youth is particularly urgent at this time, as the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States is expected to reach historically high levels this year, with New Jersey typically receiving the fifth highest number of arrivals from any state. Funding the representation of these young people will have far-reaching impacts, as children in removal proceedings are five times more likely to win their case with a lawyer. In addition to unaccompanied minors, the credit is designed to allow legal providers to represent young people in a similar situation, including children coming to New Jersey from the Remain in Mexico program. About 280 families had arrived in New Jersey from the program in May, based on data from TRAC.

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