Legal Navigator: Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

Scaling up Legal Resources to Assist Unaccompanied Immigrant Children
Providing Visual Guides for Legal Processes
Designing New Interactive Tools for Representing Unaccompanied Children
Helping Lay & Expert Users Understand Legal Rights & Options

This Legal Navigator project aims to provide a scalable set of legal training, knowledge & resources to serve the surging number of unaccompanied immigrant children in the US. Over the past several years, there has been a surge in the number of children crossing into the US alone, and when they are apprehended by government officials, often they do not have access to legal representation when they go through immigration proceedings. The demand for legal representation far outweighs the supply, even with more non-profits and pro bono groups working to increase representation of unaccompanied children.

We are using technology & human-centered design to build a user-friendly, interactive platform that will guide users through how to navigate legal processes on behalf of unaccompanied children.  It offers a coordinated, scalable way to supply legal help to the surging numbers of undocumented children who are arriving in the US.

It will give lawyers, children’s advocates, children themselves, and their families the knowledge about the legal processes & rules that apply to immigrant children, as well as the resources and support to navigate the legal system strategically, efficiently, and in the best interest of the children.

This specific Legal Navigator project is part of a larger initiative to make legal processes open to everyone through human-centered design and technology. We are building accessible, intuitive, interactive resources that support the expert & lay user alike.

These tools help the users to understand what the law is, how it applies to their situation, and how they can navigate the legal system effectively. The goal is that everyone — regardless of means, education, or familiarity with law — can take full advantage of the legal system to resolve their problems, while also protecting themselves from costly, inefficient, and unjust outcomes.


The project will be developing a central portal for training, resources & outreach regarding legal paths for unaccompanied immigrant children. We will be developing a series of tools & features for the portal, according to this roadmap:

  1. Central Platform: A main website that offers a comprehensive, user-friendly guide to legally representing immigrant children. It will collect the wealth of existing resources together from legal experts, and present them in an interactive, intuitive, and efficient way.
  2. Triage & Eligibility Tool: A tool on the site that lets the user understand what legal processes are available for a specific child’s situation, and prioritize which are worth pursuing. The user enters basic information into the tool to apply the legal procedure to a particular case — to determine if the child will qualify for guardianship & SIJ status, or if other options are available.
  3. Guided Document-Completion Software Tool: An interactive tool on the site that allows the lawyer or advocate to complete the court forms in an efficient, automated way.
  4. Know Your Rights outreach: Online and print communications that inform children, their families, and their advocates about what their rights are when they are in state court, federal immigration court, and detention. They will be designed to be visual, engaging, and accessible.
  5. Revised legal forms: A user-friendly, accessible redesign of the official forms provided by the California courts & judicial council. These forms are used by any California petitioner to go through the Guardianship process, which is a necessary step before applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with a federal immigration court.
  6. Video Trainings: Video guides to specific processes, to train lawyers and advocates in a more thorough way, with visual and interactive resources that supplement the web-based guides. They may be presented with animations, quizzes, different scenarios — not just as talking-head videos.

As we design our site & tools, we are focusing on a limited number of Target Users. These personas guide what resources we are building and how we present them. Our sample users are:

  • Lawyer User: A pro bono lawyer has been assigned to represent an immigrant child. She has never done such a case before. She wants to make sure she can quickly get up to speed about what the law is, what the procedure requires, and how she can do the best job to represent this child.
  • Community Advocate User: A community member (teacher, pastor, social worker) has come into contact with an immigrant child & wants to help the child through a legal process that will offer him some protection and stability. He does not know what options are available to the child, but wants to get informed so that he can help the child take advantage of these options & resources.
  • Family User, Pre-Emigration: A family in El Salvador is considering sending their child to the US to live there. They want to know that their child will be protected once he enters the US, and that he will have a good chance of getting an immigration status that will let him stay in the US safely & with resources. They have heard rumors and peer information about what will happen if their child arrives alone at the border, but they don’t know if this information is accurate and reliable.
  • Family User, Post-Immigration: A parent in Honduras has sent her 12 year-old son to the US to try to get a green card so he can stay there during his childhood & beyond. She is thinking of hiring a lawyer at $10,000 to represent her son through whatever legal procedures will get him a green card & legal status so he will have the opportunities she wants for him.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children - Project - User Faces-09

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