at the University of Chicago
(Mandel Legal Clinic)
6020 S. University Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637
Contact: Maria Woltjen
Program: Graduate Fellowship
The mission of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is to promote consideration of best interests in all decisions affecting unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States. These are children who arrive without their parents, from all corners of the world: Central America, Mexico, China, India, Romania, and Somalia. They’re fleeing political upheaval, extreme poverty, child labor and abusive homes. In some cases they’ve come to be reunited with family members who preceded them here. The children are transported by traffickers or by hired smugglers, or make the dangerous journeys on their own. Sometimes they’re too young to understand why they’ve been sent to the United States. The children and youth are caught at the borders and at the airports, and then sent to detention facilities throughout the country where their stay can range from a month to a couple of years; there are six such facilities in the Chicago area.
The Young Center is working to develop a national network of Child Advocates (guardians ad litem in immigration proceedings) for unaccompanied and separated immigrant and refugee children, including a framework for integrating child welfare principles in the U.S. immigration system. The Child Advocates are asked to write advocacy briefs incorporating domestic and international law, research conditions in the children’s countries of origin and figure out what, if anything, the children have to return to in these countries. Projects will include research on repatriation of children to Central America, India and China and application of the best interests principle for immigrant children in other countries.
In addition to assignments requiring legal research on international law, and drafting memos, PILI Fellows will learn skills necessary to the practice of law including, interviewing children, counseling, writing, negotiating and advocacy, attending court hearings and meetings with other advocacy organizations. The Young Center’s objective is to provide participants with a challenging learning experience, while obtaining high quality work product in order to fulfill the Young Center’s goal of ensuring the best interest of unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States. Moderate fluency in Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi or Gujarati is preferred.
This agency is approved to host Graduate Fellows.