Claire Thomas, a diminutive blonde wielding a clipboard, is an adjunct professor at New York Law School and a staff attorney with the Safe Passage Project. The nonprofit is dedicated to providing legal assistance to undocumented minors facing deportation hearings. Thomas is checking off the names of kids who are scheduled for hearings today, and then placing each child with a legal volunteer, who will screen to determine who is in need of pro bono representation, and who might be eligible to stay in the country.
The Safe Passage Project has been offering these kinds of services to juveniles since it was first founded in 2008, but the Border Kid crisis has stretched the group’s resources. In addition to the 37 kids on the surge docket today, there are another two dozen on the regular juvenile docket, taking place in another courtroom down the hall. In all, Thomas has more than 60 children to help today—and some days, she’s had close to 90 cases.
‘We’re really stretched to capacity,’ Thomas told The Daily Beast, explaining that while the Safe Passage Project has about 300 volunteer pro bono attorneys, most of them do not have immigration law backgrounds, and require significant training from the organization’s small but mighty staff of three. ‘Before we were managing about 30 cases a month, now we’re getting 30 cases a day. We don’t have the resources to train and mentor these pro bono attorneys to be able to confidently and competently help these children.'”
Article by Caitlin Dickson