Tools to Help You Serve Unaccompanied, Undocumented Youth

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Children living in the United States are entitled to a free public education, regardless of their or their parents' immigration status. In addition, migrant and refugee students experiencing homelessness are entitled to specific rights under the McKinney-Vento Act, which guarantees access to education for homeless students.

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth offers several resources for youth-serving professionals who work with unaccompanied, undocumented young people. The briefs are designed to help educators, advocates, and others navigate the legal system on behalf of undocumented young people and determine their eligibility for services made available to homeless students by the McKinney-Vento Act Homeless Education Assistance Act.

"Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Education and Homelessness" (PDF, 212KB) and the accompanying flowchart (PDF, 335KB) give an overview of what happens to unaccompanied immigrant children when they are apprehended in the United States, their education rights in the United States, and their high likelihood of experiencing housing instability and homelessness.

"Immigration and Schools: Supporting Success for Undocumented and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth" (PDF, 1.4MB) includes information about helping homeless young people access education and become documented or gain citizenship. The brief lists forms of immigration relief available to undocumented and unaccompanied young people, including:

  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Unmarried young people under age 21 are eligible for lawful immigration status when a court has found they cannot reunify with their parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect.
  • Asylum: Young people who have suffered persecution in their home countries and who fear returning because of such persecution may be eligible for asylum. The youth must be able to demonstrate persecution, or a reasonable possibility of persecution, on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • U Visa: Young people who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity, possess credible and reliable information establishing knowledge of the criminal activity, and have been helpful or are likely to be helpful in the investigation of the criminal activity.
  • The Violence Against Women Act: Immigrant victims of domestic violence can seek lawful permanent residence in the United States. A young person who was abused can apply directly if he or she lived with the abusing parent or stepparent, is unmarried and is under age 21.

More From NCFY

We interviewed Megan McKenna, who directs communications and advocacy for Kids in Need of Defense, about legal aid for undocumented young people.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

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