Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is a left-of-center nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to unaccompanied undocumented immigrant children.  The Center also also advocates for changes to U.S. immigration policy, and despite being ostensibly nonpartisan, the Center was critical of the Trump administration’s restrictionist immigration policies.
The Young Center was founded in 2004 with seed funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a “child advocate” program to represent children in immigration proceedings.  The Center is named after Young Zheng Sullivan, an unaccompanied Chinese minor who was detained while attempting to enter the United States. Sullivan was the Center’s first client, and he currently sits on its board of advisors. 
The Center was originally housed at the University of Chicago Law School, but it now has offices in Houston, San Antonio, and Harlingen, Texas, as well as Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. 
Programs and Activities
Lawyers and social workers associated with the Young Center serve as guardians ad litem for unaccompanied immigrant children detained in the United States. The Center claims to have provided courtroom representation and other services for more than 3,750 undocumented immigrant children through 2019. 
The Center has also been a strident critic of U.S. immigration policy, especially during the restrictionist-inclined Trump administration. In May of 2020, the Center joined other organizations in protesting an order from the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shut down asylum proceedings along the U.S.-Mexico border, citing dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The groups called the move “reckless” and “farcical” and claimed that it resulted in the removal of 22,000 asylum seekers, including 1,000 unaccompanied children, to countries “where they face risk of kidnapping, rape, and murder.”  In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Young Center executive director Maria Woltjen accused the Trump administration of “quietly deporting children … with public health as the excuse.” 
In July 2019, Young Center policy director Jennifer Nagda testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee and criticized the Trump administration’s “family separation” policy, which separated children from their parents when families attempted to enter the United States illegally. Nagda called for separation decisions to be “made only by an independent professional who is trained in child welfare, child development, migration and immigration law, and trafficking concerns,” with immediate court review of the decision if the professional decided to separate children from their parents.  In June of 2020, the Center released a report accusing the Trump administration of ignoring a federal court order ending the family separation policy and continuing to separate children from parents on the basis of “spurious” allegations of criminal activity. 
Despite the Young Center’s continued criticism of the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security awarded the Center a $2.9 million contract to provide child advocacy services to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in August of 2020. 
Supporters and Donors
In 2020, actor Ryan Reynolds donated $1 million to the Young Center after he was criticized for holding his 2012 wedding to actress Blake Lively at a South Carolina plantation.  In 2018, actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal Clooney, donated $100,000 to the Young Center. 
The Center has also received substantial contracts and grants from the federal government, including a $3 million grant in 2008 to expand its operations to several additional cities.