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  • Senate Bill Provides Legal Counsel to Refugee Children

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    Statement by Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program

    The Women’s Refugee Commission is pleased to support a new bill by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) that will expand access to legal services for asylum seekers and grant legal representation to unaccompanied children. For those seeking refuge, being granted asylum is often a matter of life or death and the U.S.’s complex legal process is daunting. Asylum seekers are currently not guaranteed legal counsel, and because most cannot afford it the majority of women with children and unaccompanied children are forced to face a judge alone to present their request for protection.

    Nine out of 10 unaccompanied minors who navigate our asylum system without an attorney are ordered deported. Those who do have counsel are five times more likely to be granted protection, meaning the U.S. is sending children who should be protected back to dangerous situations because they were not able to explain their case on their own.

    Senator Reid’s bill, the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, would require that every unaccompanied child and vulnerable immigrant in removal proceedings receives legal representation. This is an important step for Congress to take to ensure the U.S. adheres to our moral and legal obligation to protect refugees.