Press Releases

House Democrats Introduce Fair Day in Court for Kids Act

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Washington, February 26, 2016 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Today, 54 House Democrats, led by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act – a companion to similar legislation in the U.S. Senate – to protect children and other vulnerable groups in immigration proceedings by ensuring access to counsel, legal orientation programs, and case management services.  The new legislation ensures due process for children and vulnerable individuals, and offers an alternative to ICE raids that risk sending individuals to dangerous countries where they face threats of violence, abuse, or even death.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure these children and other vulnerable populations seeking our nation’s protection receive due process, and are not merely deported back to the dangers and the terrors they risked so much to escape,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard.  “The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would help us meet that obligation.  It reflects our American values of fairness and justice.”

The members were joined by Congressman John Conyers Jr. (MI-13), Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), and Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) at a press conference this morning to announce the new legislation (video in link). 
 
Under current law, there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration removal proceedings, even if the respondent is a child.  Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of children without attorneys are ordered deported, while children with attorneys are five times more likely to be granted protection.  Advocates assert that a child’s constitutional right to “due process” cannot be met without legal representation.

The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act:

1. Requires the government to appoint counsel to children, and vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities and victims of abuse, torture, or violence.
2. Requires 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. 
3. Creates a case management pilot project to increase court appearance rates.
4. Requires 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.

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