This past September member/owners of the Ashland and Medford Food Co-Ops chose CNPLS as their respective Change for Good Partner and Positive Change Program partner, publicly recognizing the value of our work in the Rogue Valley community.
We will use these funds to assist with the Unaccompanied Minors, Vulnerable Youth, and DACistas facets of our Immigration Law branch.
Below, we'll tell you a bit more about our plans, but let's first take a moment to meet the Immigration Law team:
There is an emergent need to support children and youth in Jackson County who have arrived in the United States as Asylum applicants with their families, as Vulnerable Youth, or as Unaccompanied Minors. In the past month alone, I have received requests for representation from a pair of 8 and 9 year old siblings from El Salvador fleeing abuse and poverty, a 20 year old young man escaping gang threats in Honduras, a 19 year old woman from Guatemala, and Guatemalan cousins, ages 6 and 7, who came to the United States as unaccompanied minors. This in stark contrast to the past five years working in the Immigration Law Project in which I fielded only 2 types of these cases.
According to statistics gathered by Human Rights organizations, this is a troubling new trend. The number of children from these particular countries (the "Northern Triangle" of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador), making the treacherous journey alone and unaccompanied, has doubled each year since 2011. UNHCR says children leaving Central America are doing so for varied reasons, including violence and persecution, and expresses concern for children who may face harm if returned home. UNHCR says children fleeing violence should be able to tell their stories and have continued access to asylum procedures in the United States.
The Immigration Law Project at CNPLS already has a high caseload assisting adult and minor survivors of crime, and so these funds will assist with an expanded program to include helping unaccompanied minors and vulnerable youth to make sure that these young immigrants are safe in the United States. This entails filing guardianship applications, dependency petitions, and immigration applications for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. In these cases, without a proper guardianship in place, the child or youth will be placed in removal proceedings and returned to their violent and unstable home country. Without a proper guardianship in place, we cannot assure that they are being cared for responsibly in the United States. It is our duty to provide equal access to justice for these children and vulnerable youth, who have no other recourse. The families caring from them are often not parents, but instead family members with little to no extra income to access the court system and legal representation.
Again, a HUGE thanks to the owner/members of the Rogue Valley Food Co-Ops for selecting CNPLS as their Round Up for Change beneficiaries and also to the Co-op shoppers for their generous donations. It really goes to show that even small choices can really add up to something big!