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Launching the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children

Five years ago, at the beginning of 2015, Lowenstein joined with the Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) to bring together a core group of nonprofits, law schools, law firms, and corporate legal departments that had demonstrated a significant commitment to representing unaccompanied immigrant children (i.e., those who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian). The idea was to share information, collaborate on advocacy issues, coordinate legal representation and social services, and expand the number of lawyers with the skills and knowledge necessary to win protection for these children. Early on, the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children attracted the interest of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, which made generous, multiyear donations to support the effort, focused on expanding immigration representation for foster children and increasing legal capacity in underserved areas of the state.

The consortium has met bimonthly ever since. Its members have kept one another up to date on rapidly changing policies and procedures in the immigration courts and agencies; responded collectively to the family separation crisis; beat back attacks on both asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status; drafted and disseminated model pleadings, briefs, and orders; joined forces with organizers around the state to ensure that immigrant children are not denied their legal right to enroll in public school; and created model documents immigrant parents can use to designate alternative caregivers for their children in the event that federal enforcement separates them from their families. The consortium has also reached out to and begun to collaborate with medical and mental health care providers who work with immigrant children.

In 2019, a group of state and national foundations took interest in the consortium, as well as in the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, a coalition of the leading nonprofits that help New Jersey’s immigrant communities organize and advocate on their own behalf. The foundations solicited a joint proposal from the two groups and generously agreed to make a collective grant of $360,000 to support the separate and joint efforts of the two coalitions. As a result, the Consortium will have the resources to hire an executive director who will solidify its past successes and help build the infrastructure needed for it to move forward. The firm will have a seat on the three-member executive committee that will continue to guide this growing organization.