Free LI Legal Defense Clinic Opens For Unaccompanied Minors And Separated Families

(Photo/Creative Commons License/Michael Fleshman)

Last week, the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and the Immigrant Justice Corps opened a new center for the legal defense of unaccompanied children and families separated at the border. Services are provided free of charge to those in deportation or removal proceedings before the immigration courts.

The one-week-old joint project will be hosted at 91 N. Franklin Street in Hempstead. It was set up to help fill the pressing need for legal representation to children fleeing to the United States from gang violence in their homelands. CARECEN, long a fixture in the Long Island immigrant community, was already representing 170 unaccompanied children in the courts, but it was at capacity and could no longer accept new cases. The joint project will be able to accept up to 300 additional cases over the next 10 months.

The Immigrant Justice Corps has partnered with CARECEN for several years to try to solve the child representation problem. The involvement of funder Mark Sillcox allowed the two organizations to hire a six-person staff, including three attorneys, to represent the children. The day-to-day work of the staff is supervised by Harold Solis, an experienced immigration lawyer based at the Immigrant Justice Corps.

“We have already screened 150 children and their families for representation so far,” said Solis.

Siomara Umana of CARECEN also provides oversight, explaining that more and more families are seeking help every day.

To qualify for the program, the child must be under 21 years of age and must have been detained by Border Patrol or ICE. The child must have a court hearing date set for within the next 12 months and must currently live in Nassau or Suffolk counties. There are other criteria that will be discussed with the child’s family during an intake.

To sign up for an intake, please contact CARECEN at 516-489-8330.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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