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Unaccompanied Minors in Marin Have a New Champion at Canal Alliance 

March 4, 2024

The Legal Services Funders Network (LSFN) is a Bay Area network of funders who collaborate to alleviate poverty. The LSFN Fellowship was established to strengthen the capacity of legal service organizations such as Canal Alliance by providing them with recent law school graduates to work on staff.  

In June 2023, Canal Alliance applied to the LSFN Fellowship in search of a Fellow to increase the capacity of its Immigration Legal Services (ILS) program. That same month, Neha Singh Malik graduated from University of California Davis Law School and submitted her own application to become an LSFN Fellow. Soon after, Neha was matched with Canal Alliance and after serving five months as a Legal Fellow, was hired as a staff attorney with the ILS Unaccompanied Children Unit. In addition, a recent grant from the Jewish Community Federation provided funds for a part-time intern to assist with the important work of the ILS Unaccompanied Children Unit.  

In her work at Canal Alliance, Neha provides legal representation for minors under age 18 who have entered the U.S. without a legal guardian. Many are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their home countries; others are seeking to reconnect with family members and must be released to sponsors to remain in the U.S. Today, Marin has the highest per capita number of unaccompanied minors released to sponsors among all Bay Area counties.  

Most of these children have a strong case to apply for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa based on abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents in their home countries. However, all unaccompanied minors are entered into deportation proceedings the moment they arrive in the U.S. and are given limited time to apply for legal status.  

Neha explained that the immigration system is very complex and can take years to navigate. “Many of my clients are young women from Guatemala who have been subject to extreme abuse,” she said. “Some arrive pregnant or with their own young children. My focus is to defer proceedings that can result in deportation and keep these vulnerable young people safe and on the path to legal status so they can live free from fear.”  

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