Immigrant Children's Defense Project
In the US immigration court system, children face immigration judges alone.
Lia*, a 12-year-old asylum seeker, was raped by her father in Honduras. She fled to safety in the United States, only to find herself in deportation proceedings without a lawyer. There is no right to a court-appointed lawyer in immigration court; even children face judges alone. In immigration court, Lia struggled to articulate her story, and the judge determined she was not credible. Without a lawyer, Lia's voice went unheard. Lia was ultimately deported to her abuser.
Lia’s story is typical for immigrant children in the Greater Philadelphia Area. 23,364 children have deportation cases pending against them at the Philadelphia Immigration Court. 74% have no lawyer. Whether a child is represented in court is the single most important factor in determining outcome: 90% of unrepresented children are deported, while up to half of represented kids stay in the US legally.**
How does Project Libertad help?
My lawyer always stood by me and never left me alone. In court, I felt afraid, but I never felt alone."
-- Daniel, age 17, an unaccompanied child from Honduras
Recognizing the dire gap in legal services for immigrant youth in the Greater Philadelphia Area, Project Libertad launched the Immigrant Children’s Defense Project in 2020 to protect vulnerable children like Lia from deportation to dangerous situations. Project Libertad opened 53 legal cases for immigrant youth in 2020.***
**TRAC, Syracuse University.
***Some youth may have more than one legal case opened for them.