Erin Sweeney

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

The Project

Cindy (she/her/hers) will provide a multidisciplinary approach to reduce both the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison-to-deportation pipeline through direct representation, advocacy, and education.

Noncitizen juveniles face many barriers in accessing their rights. Without access to bilingual staff, funding, and competent immigration legal representation, noncitizen youth are often excluded from rehabilitative programs and denied a chance to pursue immigration relief to which they are entitled. Without high-quality legal representation and advocacy, noncitizen juveniles are left to navigate the juvenile justice and immigration systems on their own, and often face continued detention and deportation.

Cindy has witnessed the many injustices her entire family experienced as undocumented immigrants. She grew tired of watching her community be harmed time and time again, which led to her dedicating her career to immigration law.

Fellowship Plans 

Cindy will provide high-quality legal counsel to immigrant juveniles in NJ juvenile detention centers and residential community homes to obtain better outcomes before Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains and deport youth. Cindy will advocate for expanded funding to provide all juveniles with representation and expand access to social services for them. Cindy will educate youth on their legal rights when confronting the juvenile justice system and will train attorneys to represent juveniles with records.

Witnessing my own family face never ending injustices propelled me into this work. I was tired of seeing my loved ones being degraded and taken advantage of and I knew I wanted to do something about it.

Cindy Guaman /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Inspiration

The Project

My project focuses on providing education advocacy for teens transitioning or aging out of foster care in New York City to ensure their educational and vocational needs are met with appropriate services. It provides direct representation to foster care youth and their families related to education; technical assistance to caseworkers, advocates and attorneys; and extensive community outreach and trainings on education and the law to those involved in the child welfare system.

The Inspiration

The Project

My project has expanded the services offered in the NextStep Project, which was designed to serve former foster youth. I have focused my project on youth that cross-over from the dependency to the delinquency system. While I continue to assist youth with SSI appeals, 388 petitions (which allow youth to access Independent Living Program services), and other problems they encounter, I am also engaging in significant policy work, direct services and community education in the area of sealing juvenile delinquency records.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration