WASHINGTON –(ENEWSPF)–February 26, 2016. Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which will ensure that children and vulnerable individuals in immigration proceedings have access to counsel and receive legal orientation about their rights and responsibilities under immigration law.
“According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a majority of recently-arrived unaccompanied children are eligible for legal protection that would allow them to lawfully remain in the United States. Yet the ability to access these protections is almost impossible without an attorney to represent them in court,” said the members. “Under current U.S. law, there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration removal proceedings, even if the respondent is a child. But we know that attorneys matter. Nine out of 10 children without attorneys are ordered deported, while children with attorneys are five times more likely to be granted protection. These children and families deserve their fair day in court, and that is why we are proud to introduce this important legislation.”
The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act ensures due process for children and vulnerable individuals by:
- Requiring the government to appoint counsel to children, and vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities and victims of abuse, torture, or violence;
- Requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure that legal orientation programs are available to all detained immigrants;
- Creating a case management pilot project to increase court appearance rates; and
- Requiring DHS to submit reports to Congress on the number of individuals identified in the Act who were represented by counsel and the number of individuals who received legal orientation presentations.
The need for this bill is clear. The complex U.S. immigration system consists of hundreds of laws that can take lawyers and legal scholars years to understand. Complicated legal motions must be filed, oral arguments must be made, and appeals are routine. Yet children as young as toddlers, and other vulnerable individuals fleeing persecution, often have to make their case before an immigration judge without legal representation. Approximately 70 percent of families (women and children) and 50 percent of children are not represented in deportation proceedings.
The bill currently has 39 House co-sponsors. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and several Senate Democrats introduced a Senate companion bill. To see full text of the bill, click here.
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