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Women’s Refugee Commission Supports Bill to Grant Legal Representation to Unaccompanied Children

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Mazie Hirono (D- HI) introduced a bill, the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which would grant legal representation to unaccompanied children.

Most of the unaccompanied children who arrive at the southern border of the United States are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries and are seeking protection. Since few children have the financial resources to hire legal counsel, they are required to develop and present their claims for relief on their own. As a result, children as young as three or four years old have had to appear alone before an immigration judge and opposite an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorney in a courtroom to present their request for protection.

The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would help to ensure higher appearance rates and increased efficiency in our immigration system, and, most importantly, that children who should receive protection are granted it.  Previous studies have shown that approximately nine out of every ten children who navigate the U.S. asylum system without an attorney are likely to be deported, whereas children with attorneys are granted relief in nearly the same ratio.  As of January 2018, approximately 38% of children whose cases were filed in FY 2016, and 77.6% of cases filed in FY 2017, did not have representation. 

Leah Chavla, policy advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission, made the following statement:

“Almost every day, children arrive alone at the border, seeking asylum in the U.S.  As part of that process, those children, some as young as toddlers, have been forced to appear before an immigration judge, not only without their parents, but also without legal representation. The Women’s Refugee Commission strongly believes that Senator Hirono’s bill, the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, is an important step toward ensuring that the U.S. adheres to our moral and legal obligation to protect refugee and other vulnerable children seeking our protection.”