Foundations Team Up With Government in NYC to Support Immigrant Children

The influx of unaccompanied immigrant minors into the U.S. has lots of institutions scrambling, and one hot zoneas you might imagineis New York City, where an estimated 1,000 immigrant children without parents face deportation.

To deal with this emergency, the New York City Council, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the New York Community Trust have together put up nearly $2 million for legal representation and other services. The Robin Hood Foundation is contributing $550,000 of this, and the New York Community Trust is giving $360,000. The rest is coming from government.

The New York Community Trust supports nonprofits throughout New York City and its suburbs. With $2.2 billion in assets in 2013, they made grants totaling $144 million. The Robin Hood Foundation is New York's largest poverty-fighting funder, and supports hundreds of critical services for the needy including soup kitchens, shelters, job training and schools.  

Both foundations and the New York City Council are coming together for immigrant children at a critical time, since a new accelerated process for deportation known as the "rocket docket," mandated by the Justice Department, began in August. Since then, the number of youth deportations has grown to about 30 per day, a huge jump from previous average deportations of 25 per week.

Under the new "rocket docket" process, unaccompanied minors and families with children who came across the border in the recent surge of migration from Central America are moved to the front of the line to appear before immigration judges. The goal is to get both lone children and families before a judge within 21 days.

According to the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, New York is second only to Texas in the number of immigrant children without parents on its legal dockets. These children are alone and afraid, many reportedly fleeing gang violence and fearing that returning home is a death sentence. The conditions in U.S. detention centers where these children are housed are described as appalling.

With a limited understanding of the events and procedures going on around them, the children need both legal respresentation and access to social services. Without representation, they are four times as likely to be sent back, according to Eric Weingartner, managing director at the Robin Hood Foundation.

The New York Community Trust will be giving to several different groups to provide legal services to immigrant children facing deportation. Organizations that include the Legal Aid Society, Catholic Charities, the Safe Passage Project, Central American Legal Assistance, Kids in Need of Defense, and Atlas: DIY (Developing Immigrant Youth), and the Door will use the money to accept cases for direct representation and also co-counsel cases with pro bono lawyers. Additionally, the Vera Institute of Justice will receive funds for research on legal and social services available to these children.