Unaccompanied Children


About The Crisis

From October 2013 to July 2014, the United States Department of Homeland Security apprehended roughly 62,998 Unaccompanied Children (children under the age of 18 who entered the United States without legal status, and without a parent or legal guardian) at the Southwest Border of the United States, a 100% increase from the previous Fiscal Year. Most of these children are escaping violence and poverty in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which currently has the highest homicide rate in the world. Within 72 hours of being apprehended by Border Patrol agents, these children are relocated to refugee shelters, which are already struggling to respond to this influx, where they await immigration proceedings. Due to the unexpected surge, many children are placed in holding cells for longer than 72 hours, where they continue to endure harsh treatment and unsanitary conditions. Current law does not grant legal representation to UACs, forcing many of these children to appear alone before an Immigration Judge or asylum officer during the immigration proceedings. On June 2, 2014, President Obama described this crisis as an “urgent humanitarian situation,” and ordered various federal agencies to work together to address the situation.

How We Are Responding

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant has the largest affirmative asylum program in the country — we represent over 500 asylum applicants a year–and as part of that we have always represented minors, pro bono, but only a few every year. Due to our experience in asylum, a number of Bay Area agencies, including Legal Services for Children and the Oakland Unified School District, have asked for our assistance with the current crisis. At the request of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, we are committed to working on 5 to 6 UAC cases monthly. However, we have observed an increase in the number of minors, Unaccompanied and Accompanied, seeking our services over the past month. Since June 2014, we have accepted over 140 UAC asylum cases, and we continue to screen minors seeking asylum on a daily basis. Alternatively, some of these minors are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a program designed to grant legal status to abandoned, abused, or neglected children. In other instances, EBSC is assisting the parents of these children with their asylum applications, as a way to provide legal status to the UAC. We are also participating in round-table discussions with Bay Area organizations, including Legal Services for Children, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil RightsCatholic Charities, Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto, Centro Legal de la Raza, and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at UC Hastings, as well as private attorneys, to coordinate an organized community response to the crisis.

If You Are Seeking Assistance For An Unaccompanied Child

Please contact Staff Attorney, Caroline Kornfield Roberts or call our office at 510-540-5296.

How To Support Our Work

We would like to expand our capacity, and have assigned 2 staff attorneys and 1 volunteer to work on SIJS cases , as well as a dedicated Staff Attorney and a Fellow to work on UAC asylum cases. Our staff is working on UAC cases in addition to already full caseloads. We are actively seeking ways to increase our capacity and welcome any and all ideas and donations.  We are accepting individual donations online or by mail. If you are a religious organization or a foundation looking to make a contribution, please contact EBSC’s Executive Director, Sister Maureen Duignan.

Further Information

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

EBSC’s Refugee Rights Director, Michael Smith’s blog post

Staff Attorney, Caroline Kornfield Roberts’ blog post for the Emerson Collective

The President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association released an audio clip calling for a humane solution to the crisis