A group of senators have introduced the “Fair Day in Court for Kids Act.” If enacted, this proposed law would provide unaccompanied children in removal (deportation) proceedings with immigration lawyers to represent them. Despite the complexity of the law and the potential “life or death” consequences of deportation, there is currently no guarantee of representation even for unaccompanied small children under US law, and nearly half of unaccompanied minors currently proceed without ever having the help of an attorney. Research has shown that 47% of unaccompanied children who do have attorneys are permitted to remain in the U.S.; this is about five times the percentage for children who do not have attorneys. See http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/359/.
Of course, all individuals in removal proceedings, whatever their age, are far more likely to obtain relief when represented. See http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/377/ http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/160//. A lawsuit is currently pending in which the plaintiffs argue that lack of counsel violates due process. While
the recent bill does not guarantee representation for all individuals in removal proceedings as does Canadian law, for example, it would greatly improve the fairness of immigration proceedings, especially for children as well as those who have suffered abuse, torture, or violence, and would ease the burden on the many organizations and individuals that are struggling to protect the rights of immigrants.
We believe it is unworthy of a country that believes in justice for all that currently only fifty percent of unaccompanied children have the help of a lawyer at any point in their court cases, and salute Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and his colleagues who proposed this legislation. The bill is available at http://www.reid.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Fair-Day-in-Court-for-Kids-Act.pdf.