Advocate for our new – and future - neighbors!
We need your voices. Act with us to create an inclusive community of well-being where people thrive. You, like us, are motivated by a belief in the inherent dignity of all humans. Continue to advance equity, inclusion, and social justice with LSSNCA.
Critical Protections for Survivors of Violence
Representative Jayapal, Schakowsky, Espaillat, and Panetta recently reintroduced the WISE Act (H.R.9474). The WISE (Wellness for Immigrant Survivors of Violence and Trauma) Act is a proposed legislation designed to prioritize the protection, support, and recovery of immigrant survivors of crime. Introduced back in 2019 and recently re-introduced, this act aims to address the unique challenges faced by immigrant survivors and to bridge the existing gaps in our current immigration system.
This act comes as a response to the pressing need for comprehensive support for immigrant survivors of crime. Many survivors face additional barriers when seeking justice and assistance due to their immigration status. The WISE Act seeks to rectify this by providing a pathway for these survivors to access crucial services without fear of deportation or retaliation. The Act will:
1. Address the U visa (victims of criminal activity visa) backlog and lifting the U visa and Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) caps
2. Expand eligibility criteria for the U visa
3. Provide better access to trauma-informed care
4. Increase coordination between immigration officials, law enforcement, and victim service providers to ensure a streamlined process for survivors seeking justice.
Legal Counsel for Children in Immigration Proceedings
In November 2021, Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2021 (S.3108) that would provide critical protections for children who navigating the U.S. immigration system alone.
Currently, unaccompanied children in the immigration system do not have a right to legal representation. According to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), they have worked with children as young as six month old - "and more than half of unaccompanied children do not have attorneys in their immigration proceedings. These kids stand alone to defend themselves in front of an immigration judge. Their opposing counsel is a government attorney who has been trained in U.S. immigration law and is often arguing for the child’s deportation."
The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would change that. It would require that every unaccompanied child has access to counsel and it would also expand access to independent Child Advocates. The bill also extends protections to people in border facilities and immigration facilities across the country.
According to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), immigration judges were 97 times less likely to grant legal relief to unaccompanied children without counsel compared to those with counsel.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it's sitting in wait. Contact your Members of Congress today and tell them you want to see the Fair Day for Kids Act of 2021 bill passed!
Protection for Unaccompanied Children
There has been recent news coverage regarding the exploitation of unaccompanied children in the United States.
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), more than 128,000 unaccompanied children arrived in the U.S. in 2022. There are several ways we can better protect children who arrive in this country unaccompanied.
On June 14, 2023, LSSNCA CEO Kristyn Peck, and Children, Youth, and Family Services team attended the Senate Judiciary Hearing, "Ensuring the Safety and Well-being of Unaccompabied Children," addressing recent findings of exploitation of unaccompanied children. Kristyn submitted testimony for the hearing, which outlines recommendations to better support and protect unaccompanied children in the United States.
Now ask Congress to:
- Increase funding for ORR in order to ensure there is adequate funding for family reunification, shelter, housing, and support for unaccompanied children in the U.S.
- Appropriate more funding for post-release services for all children, and to better fund HHS and ORR to provide improved vetting for sponsors to whom unaccompanied children will be released.
- Reintroduce the Family Reunification Act of 2021 (H.R.3493) and reject the Secure and Protect Act of 2023 (S.425) and the Unaccompanied Alien Children Assistance Control Act (H.R.2644).
Vulnerable Children's Accessibility to Green Cards
Children and youth who are non-U.S. nationials but in the United States, and have been abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which typically qualifies them for lawful permanent residency (i.e., a green card). While this is a humanitarian visa, the pathway to a green card is only accessible via the employment-based visa system. The number of visas available to children with SIJS is therefore limited by two yearly caps, inclusive of adult applicants: one regulating the overall number of employment-based visas and the second, based on country of origin.
There are currently more than 44,000 children and youth waiting in the backlog to receive a green card. On average, they can be stuck in the backlog for four or more years. Children and youth who receive SIJS, but are waiting for a green card are espeically vulnerable to deportation, exploitation, homelessness, and have difficulty accessing health care, higher education, and employment.
On June 22, 2023 the House of Representatives introduced the Protect Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act (S.1885 and H.R.4285) which helps these children and youth access permanent immigration status. The bill would exempt children and youth with SIJS from the annual visa caps that keep thousands of them languishing in the system.
Contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Protect Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act to help children and youth access permanent residency status!
Dignity for Detained Immigrants
As of June 18, 2023, there were more than 29,600 youth and adults in U.S. immigration detention for seeking asylum and other forms of immigration relief in the United States. Conditions can be overcrowded, and individuals do not have easy access to basic hygiene essentials, medical care, or legal services. Black and Brown people make up the majority of those detained, and the conditions also cause compounded trauma for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, survivors of violence, pregnant individuals, and those with illnesses or disabilities.
In April 2023 the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act (H.R. 2222/S. 1186) was re-introduced.
The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would (non-exhaustive):
- Reduce the use of detention, shifting toward more person-centerd, less-restrictive, and cost-effective alternatives to detention programs through community-based services,
- Require custody determinations to be made within 48 hours of apprehension,
- Prohibit the detention of families and children in family detention,
- Ensure improved conditions for those remaining in detention by establishing standards that, at minimum, meet the level of protection setforth by the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards, and
- Mandate independent and unannounced inspections of facilities - any facility that fails two consecutive inspections will be shutdown.
Ask your Members of Congress to co-sponsor this bill today!
A Path to Legal Permanent Residency for Afghan Allies
Thousands of Afghans who received Humanitarian Parole to enter the United States doe not have a pathway to legal permanent residency. A bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives, creating a potential pathway to legal permanent residency.
We won't back down in advocating for the passage of an Afghan Adjustment Act, and hope you will join us.
Urge Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act!