ImmDef to Offer Legal Services to Unaccompanied Minors at Pomona & Long Beach Emergency Intake Sites
Renee Garcia, Development and Communications Manager
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) Will Offer Legal Services to Unaccompanied Minors Entering Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) in Long Beach and Pomona
ImmDef will provide pro bono legal services to 1,000 unaccompanied children at the Long Beach Convention Center Emergency Intake Site and 2,500 children at the Pomona Fairplex Emergency Intake Site as independent legal advocates to protect children’s rights and welcome them with dignity while they are in the process of family reunification.
[Los Angeles, CA April 23, 2021] — After years of cruel immigration policies forced family separations and dangerous living conditions onto asylum seekers at our Southern border, ImmDef will begin providing legal services at the Emergency Intake Sites at the Long Beach Convention Center and Pomona Fairplex to unaccompanied children facing deportation. Many of the children at these facilities were forced to flee their home countries due to severe violence, persecution, natural disaster, and some may have been separated from parents or family members due to the Biden Administration’s continued implementation of the unjust Title 42 policy.
Immdef will serve up to 1,000 unaccompanied children at the Long Beach Convention Center EIS, and up to 2,500 children at the Pomona Fairplex who are in the process of family reunification while in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody. ImmDef will provide Know-Your Rights presentations to all children, legal screenings to as many children as possible, and will represent children in court as needed to fight for their release to their families and ensure every child who is nearing their 18th birthday is released from ORR custody to avoid transfers to ICE custody. For children whose ultimate destination is outside of Southern California, ImmDef will make referrals to other legal services providers in those locations. In addition, ImmDef will recruit, train, and supervise on-site volunteers from other local partner legal services organizations.
Data from April 21st shows that this was the first day under the Biden Administration that more children were released from ORR custody than entered Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. As of this date, at least 419 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the U.S./Mexico border and taken to CBP facilities, where conditions are unacceptable for children due to overcrowding, neglect, abuse, and limited access to social services support. At least 5 children have died in CBP since 2018. While the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) requires that children be transferred from CBP custody into ORR facilities within 72 hours, ImmDef staff recently witnessed a child still in CBP custody after 26 days and allowed only two showers in all that time. While 2,175 unaccompanied minors remain in CBP custody as of April 21, 972 have been transferred from CBP to ORR custody, and at least 480 children have been released by ORR and reunited with their families. As of April 21st , HHS has at least 20,116 children in custody.
While ImmDef is stepping up to the plate to provide these services, ImmDef maintains that the most appropriate place for children is with their families, or in the smaller shelters and transitional foster care placement while awaiting family reunification. Legal Services Director, Yliana Johansen-Mendez, will oversee ImmDef’s involvement at the two Southern California EIS locations. “Although as an organization we have voiced our opposition to the use of congregate care facilities of this size, we support the federal and local government efforts to move children out of CBP custody as quickly as possible. Emergency facilities are not a long-term solution, but they are the right step right now. Even while we offer to provide services to children in these emergency facilities, we continue to advocate that ORR only detain children as long as is absolutely necessary, and we are encouraging them to move to a family first model that ensures speedy reunification, and a redistribution of resources from a detention based model to a community-based services model that includes access to social services and universal representation.”
ImmDef Executive Director and Co-Founder, Lindsay Toczylowski, “ImmDef's involvement at these emergency sites comes from our sense of obligation to ensure there is an independent legal advocate in these facilities that can protect children’s rights and monitor conditions. The Biden administration is currently losing the battle of getting kids out of CBP custody within 72 hours, and CBP is the deadliest place for children in government custody. While no child should be sleeping in a convention center, it is necessary in this moment in order to save lives. I hope this is the last time we ever have to serve children in facilities like this, and that the Biden administration focuses on its promise to reimagine the immigration system in a way that welcomes children and their families with dignity.”
ImmDef will begin providing services at the Long Beach Convention Center EIS as of Friday April 23, 2021. The Pomona Fairplex has not announced when they will begin accepting children, but children may be welcomed there as early as next week. ImmDef remains committed to our mission that no immigrant should stand alone; the children in Long Beach and Pomona are a priority and we hope our advocacy and services reflect to them how welcome they are here in California.
Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) is a next-generation social justice law firm that defends our immigrant communities against injustices in the legal system. We envision a future where no immigrant will be forced to face immigration court alone. Our programs are a first step towards the long-term goal of providing universal representation to all immigrants facing deportation. ImmDef is now the largest non‐profit, pro bono provider of deportation defense in California with offices in Los Angeles, Adelanto, Riverside, Santa Ana, and San Diego.