Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice announces the launch of the New York Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Project to support coordinated efforts aimed at improving policy and practice toward unaccompanied immigrant children.
New York City and its neighboring counties are home to thousands of young immigrants who are separated from their parents or primary caregivers and many who are entirely on their own without any family support. These unaccompanied immigrant children are susceptible to grave—even life-threatening—legal and social problems, including exploitation or abuse by traffickers, smugglers, employers, relatives, or other adults; homelessness; lack of healthcare and mental healthcare; difficulty accessing education; and inadequate access to justice, particularly legal representation. Their undocumented immigration status underlies or exacerbates these struggles. As our understanding of the complex challenges faced by unaccompanied immigrant children grows, there is a need to come together to share information and work toward improving responses to this vulnerable population.
Through a broad, coordinated effort with local child advocacy groups, academic programs, researchers, and government stakeholders, the project aims to improve state and local level policy and practice affecting unaccompanied immigrant children. Law students will provide integral support in the form of legal and policy research, preparing and conducting surveys, helping to plan stakeholder convenings, and participating in all other aspects of the project. A seminar course on children and immigration will be offered in fall 2013. The project is supported by a generous grant from a private donor.
The Feerick Center is very fortunate that Olga Byrne ’04 will be directing the project. She brings a wealth of experience on social justice issues, particularly related to this vulnerable population. Byrne is a 2001 graduate of Cornell University and a Fordham Law graduate. As a 2011–12 U.S. Fulbright Scholar in the Netherlands, she researched European policy trends toward unaccompanied and separated children. From 2006 to 2011, Byrne worked on two national programs at the Vera Institute of Justice designed to improve access to legal services for immigrants in removal proceedings. Prior to that, Byrne worked in legal services, representing victims of domestic violence at University Settlement Society and as a litigation associate at the law firm of Thelen, Reid & Priest in New York.
Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice was established in 2006 as a permanent legacy of the School’s centennial celebration. The Feerick Center works with students, alumni, lawyers, and community volunteers to connect low-income New Yorkers to the legal resources they need and cannot afford. The Center trains and supports law students and others to engage in social justice efforts. The Center seeks to frame concrete, achievable solutions to discrete problems of urban poverty through volunteer efforts, academic courses, legal and policy research, and public conferences and lectures.