Under U.S. law and regulations, they are supposed to be transferred from the Homeland Security Department’s custody to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is supposed to look after them and try to either connect them with their families or place them in foster families.
The legal program will cost $2 million and involve about 100 AmeriCorps members.
Greg Chen, director of advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the lawyers and paralegals can help in a couple of areas, including making sure the children have an advocate as they go through the complex immigration system.
“Fairness, legal due process [are] all things that children especially would need to have someone guide them through the process,” he said.
He said the immigration lawyers in particular can review each case and see whether the children already qualify for some legal status — in some cases, they may actually be the child of a citizen parent, for example.
They may also have a valid claim they can make for asylum based on conditions at home or for Special Immigrant Juveniles status, which is available to children unable to reunite with their parents.
The AmeriCorps volunteer notice specifically lists both asylum and special juvenile visas as options the lawyers should consider.