The Unaccompanied Children’s Project at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO) Immigration & Refugee Services division represents children seeking lawful immigration status in the United States. The Project is comprised of volunteer legal professionals, case managers, therapists, and social workers all working together to support and protect unaccompanied children in Louisiana. The CCANO also offers assistance in parts of Alabama and Mississippi.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a unique, hybrid form of immigration relief that requires involvement with state courts before a child is eligible to apply for lawful immigration status through U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). SIJS cases predominantly involve children who have suffered in their home countries because they lacked caregivers and adult support to provide them adequate basic necessities such as food and shelter, among other things. The great majority of the unaccompanied minors in these cases arrive in the United States fleeing the dire circumstances of life in their native countries which can include poverty, widespread violence, emotional and physical abuse, and inadequate protection by local law enforcement.
SIJS is one avenue for defending children in removal proceedings, preventing their deportation, and helping them attain lawful immigration status in the United States. Studies have shown that legal representation is a critical factor in whether an individual is successful or not in their proceedings. The federal government does not fund this representation. With assistance from pro bono volunteers like Manion Gaynor & Manning attorneys, CCANO is able to help children navigate the SIJS process. SIJS was created to allow kids without lawful immigration status and complete parental support to remain in the United States legally and receive protection from the state. Children who successfully obtain SIJS are subsequently eligible to apply for lawful residency.
Manion Gaynor & Manning attorneys know the need for these types of services is particularly acute in Louisiana and in New Orleans specifically, and have responded to the issue in their community by offering their pro bono services. The New Orleans team expects to take on more cases in the coming months.