House Members Introduce Bill to Provide Lawyers for Children, Vulnerable Individuals
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged members of Congress to support legislation that would provide access to counsel for unaccompanied children and vulnerable individuals in the immigration court system, including victims of violence, abuse, and torture. The legislation, the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016, was introduced today by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and is the companion bill of a Senate proposal.
“For many of the children and individuals seeking protection in the United States, having a lawyer is a matter of life and death,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “The asylum system is difficult enough; it’s unbelievable that we’re asking a child who may have faced violence or persecution to navigate it without the assistance of a lawyer. America’s commitment to fairness means that indigent vulnerable individuals should not be deported back to danger simply because they cannot pay for a lawyer.”
As one of the nation’s leading providers of pro bono representation for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, Human Rights First knows firsthand that having a lawyer is one of the single most important indicators of whether a vulnerable asylum seeker receives protection. Furthermore, multiple studies confirm that legal representation and information promotes efficiency, saves money, supports appearance, and is essential for navigating the complex U.S. asylum and immigration systems.
According to government data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, less than half of unaccompanied immigrant children are represented by a lawyer. Those who are unrepresented are ordered deported 90 percent of the time, while those with a lawyer are five times more likely to be granted relief by an immigration judge.
A May 2014 study found that the efficiencies created through increased legal representation in court proceedings and reduced detention time would mitigate the costs of providing legal representation to indigent immigrants.