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Family Unity Project

Immigrant Defenders Law Center staff hold up banner and raise their fist in group photo


Forcible separation places children at elevated risk for mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and conduct problems.


Additionally, numerous studies have shown a correlations between adult illness and childhood adversities, which include interpersonal loss (parental death, parental divorce, or other forms of separation from parents or caregivers), parental maladjustment, and general experiences of maltreatment, to which many of the separated children have been subjected.


These early childhood adversities are associated with nearly 50% of all childhood onset disorders and over 25% of later-onset disorders. Based on this data, we expect that most of our clients will require specialized health services to address the traumatic experience of forcible separation.  

The Family Unity Project includes Case Management Associates that mobilize ImmDef’s formal and informal networks of social service partners to enable our clients to address these various areas of health concerns.  ImmDef’s case management focuses on three core areas in a client’s life: housing, health, including mental health, and education. 

The Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy led to an estimated

5,400  children

separated from their families on the southern border of the United States. 


The Family Unity Project provides legal representation to separated families, pursues the release of parents, prompt reunification of families, and expedient, zealous defense in their immigration proceedings.

The Family Unity Program is a direct response to the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” that needlessly and inhumanely separated adults from their children upon arrival at the U.S. border.


Since 2018, the Family Unity Project at ImmDef has provided over 120 families with legal assistance and helped them find and contact their family members with whom they were unjustly torn apart. 


The program works to alleviate the immediate crisis of reunifying families victimized by the separations.


Our funding also allows us to continue to provide deportation defense to the relatively large percentage of these families that will likely end up in Los Angeles given the concentration of Central American communities in our area. Some of our clients had unwittingly signed away their reunification rights and are in dire need of immediate assistance as they are the highest risk of deportation.   


  • Assist local families with reunification paperwork in order to speed up the process of having their children returned to their care.  

  • Assists deported parents in locating and establishing contact with their children and their children’s attorney  

  • Contacts deported parents to determine preferences regarding reunification with their children and communicates parental preferences to the government 

  • Providing the families with resources that will allow them to demonstrate their readiness to receive the children in their newly established homes, one of the government’s requirements for reunification 

  • Oversees logistical support for reunification of separated children and/or parents  

  • Provides full-scale deportation defense to asylum-seeking families who intend to stay in Southern California post-release from detention and youth shelter facilities.  

  • Provide Case Management services to clients by enrolling them in Medi-Cal or Health LA and connect young clients with children to access parenting classes that address early learning, developmental health, and nutrition services. 

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