In June 2021, New Jersey adopted a budget that included a landmark $3 million to create the Legal Representation for Children and Youth Program. This appropriation will provide legal services for unaccompanied immigrant children and similarly situated youth who live in New Jersey. With the creation of this program, New Jersey became the second state, after California, to fund a representation program dedicated to immigrant children.
This funding is an outgrowth of work the firm began in 2015, when it collaborated with the state’s leading nonprofits and law schools to create the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children. That coalition finally raised sufficient funds to hire a full-time executive director in 2020, and in 2021, the Consortium worked with other key partners, including Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), to persuade the state to fund ongoing case management and representation for vulnerable children who cannot and should not face deportation proceedings alone. From October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021, the government released 5,911 unaccompanied immigrant children to families in New Jersey. They join thousands of others who were released to the state in prior years. While the new funding will not come close to ensuring representation for all of them, it is a big step forward on the long path to providing universal representation for immigrant children in deportation proceedings.