In 2014, an unprecedented number of children without lawful immigration status crossed the U.S. border unaccompanied by an adult. Fleeing the violence in Central America, these children arrived seeking protection – whether from abuse in their homes, threats from organized gangs, or trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
As a result of this humanitarian crisis, hundreds of unaccompanied children – some as young as two-years-old – are being forced to go through deportation proceedings at the Denver Immigration Court without a lawyer. Most of these children are fleeing horrific situations in their home countries, and now face the additional trauma of appearing in front of a judge and government prosecutor alone. In immigration court cases, there is no government appointed counsel, even for children.
So, these children need our help. They need pro bono lawyers to guide them through this daunting process. With assistance from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) recruits and trains volunteers, and then matches those lawyers with clients in need.
“Together we have been working tirelessly to marshal the support of Colorado’s legal community to find lawyers for as many children as possible,” says David Kolko, of the Colorado Chapter of AILA and a founding member of the CBA immigration law section.
On Dec. 15, the Colorado Bar Association (CBA) announced an effort to support justice for these children through a $50,000 matching grant to RMIAN. This grant will increase their capacity to recruit, train, and mentor volunteer attorneys who will provide representation, which is crucial to ensuring a safe future for the children.
“Ensuring due process for these vulnerable children is squarely within the mission of the Colorado Bar Association – to promote access to justice for vulnerable members of the Colorado community,” says CBA President Charles F. Garcia.
If you would like to get involved or contribute to this cause, visit: rmian.org/how-you-can-help.