Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), joined fellow House Democrats Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) yesterday in introducing new legislation to protect children and other vulnerable groups in immigration proceedings by ensuring access to counsel, legal orientation programs, and other post-release services.
“Today’s bill is an important step to protect migrant children and other vulnerable groups who come to this country and ensure they have the legal resources they need to navigate immigration proceedings. In 2014, thousands of young children left the danger and chaos of their homes in Central America in search of a safe haven,” Congressman McGovern said. “Many were literally fleeing for their lives and it is moments like these when American values of fairness and due process must not be abandoned.
“I have been to the U.S.-Mexico border, I’ve met with many of these children and families, and I’ve heard firsthand what they endured and the dangers they left behind,” McGovern added. “I am proud to stand with House Democrats in introducing this important bill and urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to give it the consideration it deserves.”
Under current law, there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration removal proceedings, even if the respondent is a child. An overwhelming majority of children without attorneys are ordered deported while children with attorneys are five times more likely to be granted protection. The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act ensures due process for children and vulnerable individuals, and offers an alternative to ICE raids that deport vulnerable children to dangerous countries where they face threats of violence, abuse, or even death.
In August 2014, Congressman McGovern traveled on a two-day fact-finding mission to the U.S.-Mexico border to learn about the child migrant crisis. He met with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents and other front-line border personnel and also visited migrant shelters in both countries run by religious communities who provide basic services to these vulnerable migrants. Click here for more information on Congressman McGovern’s trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.
BACKGROUND – FAIR DAY IN COURT FOR KIDS ACT:
Requires the government to appoint counsel to children, and vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities and victims of abuse, torture, or violence.
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.
Creates a case management pilot project to increase court appearance rates.
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.