The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights Clinic combines international human rights, immigration law and children's rights law. Students in the Young Center clinic serve as Child Advocate (similar to a guardian ad litem) for unaccompanied immigrant children detained in Chicago detention facilities. Unaccompanied immigrant children come to the U.S. from all corners of the world, on their own. They are apprehended—typically at the U.S./Mexico border, or through internal enforcement—then detained and placed in deportation proceedings.

Direct Client Service:

Pursuant to federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Young Center is appointed as Child Advocate for the most vulnerable of these children (tender age children, children with mental or physical disabilities, children who have experienced extensive trauma, etc.). Law students in the Young Center Clinic are appointed by the federal government to serve as Child Advocate for individual children, and are responsible for advocating for the best interests of the assigned child on issues relating to care, custody, release, legal relief and safe repatriation. Each student meets weekly with the child at the detention facility, and advocates on behalf of the child with federal officials, including immigration judges and asylum officers, under the supervision of Young Center attorneys. Since there currently is no substantive best interests of the child standard under the Immigration and Nationality Act, students look to state child welfare law, international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNHCR Guidelines, and the child protection laws of the child’s home country.

Policy Advocacy:

In addition to serving as Child Advocate, clinic students have the opportunity to engage in legislative and policy advocacy aimed at improving the immigration system for immigrant children in removal proceedings. This is an especially exciting time because Congress is debating Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The Young Center will travel with students to Washington D.C. to meet with legislative officials in the Senate and the House to educate them about immigrant children and advance specific policies, including the appointment of counsel for immigrant children and incorporation of a substantive best interests of the child standard in the Immigration and Nationality Act.  

The Young Center Clinic admits both second-year and third-year law students. Language skills are not required, but students who speak Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi or Urdu are strongly encouraged to apply. Students who enroll in the clinic must:

  1. Participate in a 2-day orientation during the first week of Fall Quarter (Saturday & Sunday); 
  2. Participate in a 2-hour weekly seminar during the Fall Quarter; 
  3. Participate in bi-weekly brown bag lunch meetings during the Winter and Spring Quarters.

For more information about the Young Center, visit: or contact Maria Woltjen at or 773-702-0349 or Elizabeth Frankel at or 773-702-9587.

Students who want to learn more about the Young Center may contact Professor Woltjen for more information.