tags: , AVEF, Press Releases

“Fair Day in Court for Kids Act” Would Better Align our Actual Policies with our Stated Values

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Today, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the “Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016.” The legislation would ensure that vulnerable individuals, such as unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers, have access to an attorney and a fair legal process when facing a life-or-death deportation decision.

As Senator Reid noted, “Under current U.S. law, there is no right to appointed counsel in non-criminal immigration removal proceedings, even if the person in question is a child. Imagine that.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) stated in response to the bill introduction, “Asylum seekers represented by counsel in expedited removal proceedings are 12 times more likely to be granted asylum. Children with attorneys are five times more likely to be granted protection.”

In response to the new legislation, Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said the following:

“Passing this legislation would be an important step towards aligning our actual policies on-the-ground with our stated values as Americans.  No child should have to navigate the immigration legal process by herself.  It’s incredible that we even have to say that, but we do.

“During a recent naturalization ceremony at the National Archives, President Obama reflected that many ‘Central American teenagers running from gang violence’ have looked to America seeking ‘shelter from nightmares.’  Unfortunately, too many of those very same young people have not received full and fair legal proceedings—including access to legal counsel—in order to plead their case.  We can and must do better.

“We thank the Senators behind this legislation for their leadership and commitment. We should all stand behind their efforts to ensure that the principles of basic legal fairness are upheld, even and especially for children and young people.”