Migrant Children Should Get Their Fair Day in Court

by Jacqueline Monet, Kitechild Social Media Manager

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Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images. A Honduran child at a United States Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, Texas. 

Yesterday a bill was introduced that would ensure that unaccompanied and vulnerable immigrant children would be given lawyers. These children are often fleeing violence, poverty and trafficking, after risking their lives on arduous journeys to arrive in America, alone. Once they finally arrive in the United States, they are all too often met with continued uncertainty of their futures. They are not granted the same basic rights as other Americans and even when facing deportation, they are not guaranteed a lawyer. Thousands of vulnerable children are being forced to go through immigrant proceedings without representation, which means they don’t have a chance at a fair deportation hearing.

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Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan. Three of the sponsors of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act 2016: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV), and Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Durbin (D-IL).

This new legislation, called the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016, was brought before Congress by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Democratic politicians, along with the group Human Rights First. This is a very important piece of legislation to pass, as currently less than half of unaccompanied immigrant children have legal representation. This situation has serious ramifications for these vulnerable children: 90% of unaccompanied children without a lawyer are deported and those with representation are 5 times more likely to be granted relief. “We know firsthand that having a lawyer is one of the single most important indicators of whether a vulnerable asylum seeker receives protection,” said Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First. Providing legal representation to these children may not cost as much as you may think, when you consider that it will increase the efficiency of the current court proceedings and by reducing dentition costs. This is especially true considering how thousands of unaccompanied children have been flooding the border, and will continue to risk their lives for the promise of a better future in America.

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Photo Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times. Honduran child in Tapachula on his way into the United States.

All of these issues are coming to a head in the midst of the recent Obama Administration’s policy to deport arriving migrant children. That means that the 52,000 children that have been detained at the border this past year will be facing deportation… but, if the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act passes, there is hope for these children to standing a fighting chance to not be forced back to their conflict-ridden countries.

 

Resources

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/new-legislation-would-provide-lawyers-children-vulnerable-individuals

http://www.northjersey.com/news/lawmakers-introduce-bill-calling-for-children-who-immigrated-to-u-s-alone-to-be-provided-lawyers-1.1510623

http://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/young-scared-alone-and-in-court?cmpid=action-share-influence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/failures-in-handling-unaccompanied-migrant-minors-have-led-to-trafficking/2016/01/26/c47de164-c138-11e5-9443-7074c3645405_story.html

http://time.com/4218850/democratic-debate-bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-central-america-unaccompanied-minors/

http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-crackdown-migrant-children-20150428-story.html

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