Senator Harry Reid and several other Democrats introduced legislation today that would grant children fleeing persecution in Central America access to legal assistance. Senator Reid penned an op-ed piece today in Univision that explained the bill’s purpose:
But more must be done to ensure that Central American refugees are protected once they are in the United States. One way to do this is by making sure that they have basic access to a lawyer. That is why I have introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which would require that every unaccompanied child and vulnerable immigrant in removal proceedings receives legal representation.
Studies show that 9 out of 10 unaccompanied minors who navigate the system without an attorney are deported, while those who do have counsel are five times more likely to be granted protection. Barriers to legal counsel should not determine whether an individual, and especially a child, lives in peace or fear for his or her life.
The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would also require DHS to ensure that immigrants at detention and border facilities have access to counsel and provide legal orientation programs so that detainees understand their rights. In an effort to improve accountability, this bill would require DHS to report how many qualifying individuals actually received counsel. These measures will help ensure that the credible claims of asylum seekers are heard, not ignored.
A welcome development.