NJ budget sets aside $ 3 million for legal aid for unaccompanied minors

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It’s a small slice the $ 46.4 billion budget passed by the New Jersey legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last week, but that will make the Garden State one of the few in the country to put money aside for this effect.

Minors from foreign countries who enter the United States as unaccompanied minors will now have access to a $ 3 million pool for legal representation, to combat deportation efforts and to find family members in the country. New Jersey.

Randi Mandelbaum, a distinguished clinical professor of law at Rutgers Law School in Newark and director of the Child Advocacy Clinic, said that when a child arrives at the border alone, Customs and Border Protection must turn the minor over to the Department of Health and Social Services, whose Refugee Resettlement Office is responsible for resettling the child.

“If a child, say, has an aunt, uncle, grandparent living in New Jersey, ORR would seek to place the child with that parent,” Mandelbaum said. “It might even be a parent, too.”

As of about 2014, Mandelbaum said New Jersey has taken in more than 15,000 of these children and expects to receive an additional 4,000 to 5,000 in the following fiscal year.

They are vulnerable, they have suffered trauma, they have suffered and they feel that this country will give them a better chance of survival.

“They are leaving very violent and dangerous situations, and their trip to the United States is also often dangerous,” Mandelbaum said.

HHS data shows that a third of unaccompanied minors do not have close family in the United States, as Newsweek reported Last week.

Many have a legal reason to be here, Mandelbaum said; it’s just that they may lack the knowledge, maturity or, more importantly, the resources to advocate for a green card.

“The program that the governor seeks to launch is so essential that New Jersey has stepped up like California and parts of New York to provide legal representation and also case management,” Mandelbaum said.

But is $ 3 million enough?

This is a “good start,” Mandelbaum said, and it will help these children enroll in school as well as necessary medical and mental health services.

Yet given the predicted glut of migrant children who will be coming to New Jersey over the next 12 months, Mandelbaum said appropriation must be more than a one-time deal.

“My hope is that this happens every year and that over time it increases because $ 3 million is not going to start representing all unaccompanied children and youth,” she said.

Patrick Lavery is the anchor for the New Jersey 101.5 afternoon news. Follow it on Twitter @ plavery1015 or send an email to [email protected]

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