Violence in their home countries has prompted tens of thousands of children in recent years to cross international borders and make their way to the US and other countries. But when these youths — some as young as two years old — arrive in the US, they often face the same complex detention and deportation processes that are applied to adults. Stories abound of five-year-old children going in front of judges in immigration court, alone and unaccompanied by a lawyer, often not understanding what an international border even is. In an attempt to remedy the situation, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has proposed the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act of 2014, which would ensure that child migrants are accompanied legal counsel in removal proceedings.
As First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley said today:
Children fleeing brutal violence come to America seeking protection and opportunity – instead, they find detention and a legal labyrinth that would overwhelm most adult.
Child refugees need defense, not additional trauma. And Congressman Jeffries’ bill delivers.