Every day, organizations worldwide are engaged in a collective two steps forward, one step back march toward improved immigration services and policies. What hard-earned lessons are these nonprofits, and the foundations that support them, learning from their persistent efforts? This collection of evaluations, case studies, and lessons learned exposes and explores the nuances of effective collaboration, the value of coordinated messaging, the bedrock of ongoing advocacy efforts, and the vital importance of long-term and flexible funding.

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Representation Matters: No Child Should Appear in Immigration Proceedings Alone

December 23, 2021

Each year, thousands of immigrant children are placed into court proceedings in which government prosecutors seek to deport them unless those children can prove they have a right to stay in the United States. Many face these immigration proceedings alone. Many children have legal options that establish their ability to remain in the United States, but these options are nearly impossible to access without the assistance of trained attorneys. Unfortunately, although the right to be represented by legal counsel is recognized in immigration proceedings, the right to appointed counsel is not. Children who are unable to find free counsel or afford private counsel must navigate the immigration system alone. This fact sheet outlines why universal, publicly funded representation for children in immigration proceedings is urgently needed.

Children

60 Years of Fighting for Justice: Annual Report 2021

December 13, 2021

Vera started in 1961 with Herb Sturz sitting alone in the alcove adjoining Louis Schweitzer's secretary's office. Today it has grown to 290 employees with offices in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Washington, DC.As we mourn our founder, and his successor Michael E. Smith (who died in May), we lean on the lessons they left us and work to build on their legacies.Herb's formula—using compelling data and tireless advocacy to transform unjust systems—continues to succeed. In our 60th year, we are applying that formula at the highest levels of power, as we focus intentionally on eradicating racial injustice. The criminal legal and immigration systems are fundamentally brutal, especially to people of color. Vera exists to transform these systems so that communities can thrive.On the pages that follow, read how Vera seeks to transform the role of the prosecutor to one that pursues justice, not jails; to make sure that every immigrant facing deportation has a government-funded lawyer and a fighting chance to stay with their family and in our communities; and ensure that every incarcerated student has the chance to receive a quality college education. Vera once incubated social justice organizations across New York City. Now we strive for national policy change across state capitals and in Washington, DC, alongside community partners and government leaders.Our founding charter stated that we exist "to seek and further the equal protection of the laws." We are now carrying this mission—and the legacy of our founders—forward at a larger scale, with 60 years of experience and our unwavering commitment to justice for all.

How Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding Can Support Immigrant Communities

October 5, 2021

Federal COVID-19 relief funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), intended for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation efforts as well as recovery and stability for communities—particularly those disproportionately affected by the pandemic—can be used to counter the harms endured by immigrant communities and to promote health and safety. One key way to do this is to invest in immigrant legal services, including deportation defense programs.Vera has researched and advocated for deportation defense programs through its SAFE Initiative, which furthers the movement for universal representation. ARP funding can be leveraged to create and expand such programs because they can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by securing the release of people from detention, disrupt the pipeline between the criminal legal and immigration systems and reduce racial and economic disparities, and keep families and communities together.

Compassion, Not Confinement

June 16, 2021

In the first five months of 2021, about 65,000 children were apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after arriving in the United States unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian. These children come to the United States seeking protection, stability, and a chance to reunite with their families, but are instead processed at federally run stations and incarcerated in jail-like conditions with often freezing temperatures, inadequate food and water, limited access to showers and hygiene products, and no access to private toilets, sinks, or beds.Rather than incarcerating unaccompanied children in such awful conditions, there is another way: to urge the federal government to respond to their arrival with compassion, not confinement, and to work as quickly as possible to reunify them with family and kin in the United States. This brief provides concrete recommendations to states and localities to intervene and use their authority toward this goal.

Evaluation of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project: Assessing the Impact of Legal Representation on Family and Community Unity

November 1, 2017

This study evaluates the impact of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). NYIFUP is the nation's first public defender system for immigrants facing deportation—defined as those in removal proceedings before an immigration judge. Funded by the New York City Council since July 2014, the program provides a free attorney to almost all detained indigent immigrants facing deportation at Varick Street Immigration Court who are unrepresented at their first court appearances.This evaluation offers quantitative and qualitative analyses about the impact of government-funded counsel in New York City deportation proceedings on clients, their families, and the local economy.