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Undocumented Immigrant Youth: Guide for Advocates and Service Providers

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2006
23 pages
This brief provides youth advocates and youth-serving agencies the background information necessary for a collaboration in addressing the circumstances and needs of undocumented immigrant youth who become involved in the immigration and juvenile justice systems; and it recommends policies and actions for improving the safety and well-being of undocumented immigrant youth.
Immigrant youth need protection and assistance in immigration proceedings that involve the possibility of detention, family shelters, and access to information during the detention process. Pertinent recommendations address the establishment of national standards for the proper care and treatment of youth, contracts with more family shelters, the use of community-based youth-serving agencies, and the provision of information to youth and their guardians. Noting that immigrant youth lack representation in immigration proceedings, this brief develops arguments for entitlement to representation, the role of social-service agencies, and the role of family members in improving outcomes for these youth. Recommendations pertain to providing funding for legal representation, an increase in non-profit legal and social-services assistance, and the provision of access to counsel at key moments in the process. Other recommendations are to train immigration lawyers to work with youth, to assist youth in contacting pro-bono legal services, and to release children to sponsors whenever possible. This brief also discusses issues of when and how State and local systems should connect youth to the immigration system. Recommendations are to know the referral precedents of local agencies and to encourage local systems to restrict the release of information to immigration authorities. The brief concludes with an overview of misperceptions about immigrant youths' involvement in gangs. This is an effort to provide facts that refute the misperception that a youth's immigration status is directly linked to his/her involvement in criminal gangs. An annotated listing of the responsibilities and authorities of relevant immigration agencies