Photo of Erin Sweeney

Erin Sweeney

  • Hosted by Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
  • Sponsored by Microsoft Corporation, Sidley Austin LLP
  • Service location Newark, New Jersey
  • Law school Rutgers School of Law - Newark
  • Issue area Children/Youth, Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Erin (she/her/hers) will focus on improving educational and legal outcomes for unaccompanied children by working with school districts to ensure students’ rights are met while also providing direct representation.

Thousands of unaccompanied children are being resettled in New Jersey each year. However, educators are often unaware of what rights immigrant students have, the different statuses of students, and how to meet their needs. This can leave unaccompanied children unenrolled in school and even aging out, which can prevent youth from being eligible for some forms of legal relief. Schools need to be educated on how to identify, refer, and support unaccompanied children. Lawyers need to know how to navigate school districts and ensure their client’s educational needs are met.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Erin will build relationships with at least five school districts in New Jersey to educate them on how to better support immigrant youth, leading to the creation of a guide lawyers can use to navigate educational systems. She will conduct Know Your Rights events and legal screenings to identify more students in need of immigration legal services. She will also directly represent unaccompanied minors referred from the school districts and/or who are facing educational issues such as difficulty enrolling.

Immigrant rights and the right to an education are both vital civil rights issues of our time. My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to bring together my passion for both to serve the most vulnerable immigrants: unaccompanied children.

Erin Sweeney /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Sponsor: AmeriCorps, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, U.S. Department of Justice