Share the Plate July and August – Immigrant Legal Center’s Unaccompanied Children’s Program

Every month Second Unitarian donates one half of our offering to a local non-profit organization.

The Share the Plate partner for the months of July & August will be the Immigrant Legal Center (ILC) program for unaccompanied children (UCs). Unaccompanied children are youth who have crossed the border into the United States on their own. They are usually held in detention centers and then moved to shelters until a family member or family friend is found to ‘sponsor’ them. The age ranges of UCs ILC Social Work has assisted are age 3 to age 18. The adult ‘sponsors’ do not get any support from the government (i.e. foster payments).

The Omaha Area Sanctuary Network (OASN) will serve as the fiscal agent because ILC does not have a budget line for the non-legal needs of the UCs; social workers have to find the service, item, or financial support in the community. Because the youth are undocumented with no immigration status, and their families are often undocumented too, there are many service organizations that cannot or will not assist people who don’t have identification. This limits the options that social work can refer to.

Omaha Area Sanctuary Network (OASN) started in 2016 after Trump was elected president. It has morphed a few times, from finding an actual physical sanctuary, to rapid response in the streets, to case management for undocumented families, to its current form as a place for undocumented immigrants to access financial support. In keeping with its mission to serve the undocumented, OASN has decided to exclusively partner with the Social Work department at Immigrant Legal Center (ILC), which specifically serves unaccompanied minors and their families (there are some exceptions of when social work has helped non-UC kids – i.e. trans immigrants).

ILC is a pro bono, nonprofit law firm that is well established across the state and has a reputation of providing high quality immigration legal representation. In 2022, ILC added a social work department to address the influx of unaccompanied minors. Second Unitarian member, Monica Meier, was hired as the Director of Social Work and she supervises two social workers and two interns in Omaha, one social worker and one intern in Lincoln and one social worker in Grand Island. They serve the youth and families through a trauma informed lens and assist in connecting them to community resources, advocating for services in schools and coaching through family strife. Starting in October 2023, the ILC Social Work department will offer clinical services (mental health therapy) to the UC program, at no cost to the families.

The ILC Social Work program has established a process to request funds as needs arise; Monica Meier will review and approve all requests submitted to OASN, making sure community resources have first been attempted.  ILC and OASN are working with other congregations and individuals to ensure that there are always sufficient funds to meet the needs of the youth.  Please give generously to this important work of caring for vulnerable, traumatized children who have taken great risks to be here to improve their lives.