Listed below are the forms of relief most likely to apply in cases referred for pro bono assistance. There are other forms of relief that also may be available in particular cases, but most of the organizations referring cases involving immigrant children tend to refer cases where one or more of the following kinds of relief apply:
Asylum: Individuals who have been persecuted or fear future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may be eligible for asylum. Asylum matters may be affirmative (where the application is filed with the asylum office, followed by a non-adversarial asylum interview) or defensive (where the application is filed in open court, followed by a merit hearing at which the attorney submits evidence and calls witnesses). Asylum cases for detained clients are always defensive cases and require presentation of evidence in court. Attorneys meet with their clients, draft factual declarations for the clients, gather country conditions evidence to support the cases, and draft letter briefs (to the asylum office) or legal briefs (in court).
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS): Children and youth who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by their parents may be eligible for this special form of immigration relief. Attorneys assist children and youth by obtaining custody or guardianship orders in state court and then filing a written application for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with the federal government.
U Visa/Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Domestic violence survivors may be eligible for immigration relief via a U Visa or VAWA petition, depending on their circumstances. In both U visa and VAWA cases, attorneys work with clients to develop a factual declaration, compile written evidence, and file a written submission to the government. No interview or court appearance is required. For U visas (but not VAWA cases) there is a backlog, so while the actual time required to prepare the submission is fairly limited, the case could be pending awaiting decision for a period of years.