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Congresswoman Adams & Other House Democrats Introduce Fair Day In Court For Kids Act

Feb 26, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (NC-12) today joined U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Luiz V. Gutiérrez (D- Ill.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) to introduce the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, new legislation to protect children and other vulnerable groups in immigration proceedings by ensuring access to counsel, legal orientation programs, and case management services.

Under current law, there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration removal proceedings, even if the respondent is a child.  Statistics show 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 risk sending individuals to dangerous countries where they face threats of violence, abuse, or even death.

The 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.

Below are Congresswoman Adams remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you Reps. Lofgren, Gutierrez and Roybal-Allard for your strong leadership on this issue and for crafting this legislation.

“In recent years, the humanitarian crisis in Central America has sent thousands of women and children to the border in search of a safe haven here in America. But for far too many, our complex immigration system can be hard to navigate – leaving them at risk for deportation.

“It has been documented that 83 people who were deported from the United States back to the Northern Triangle of Central America since 2014 were killed upon their return. This threat is all too real for families in the communities I represent.

“Several families living in North Carolina’s 12th District have contacted my office and shared horrifying stories of young people being deported back to their home countries that are ravaged with gang violence.  This led me to hold a conference call several weeks ago to learn more about this issue and hear first-hand from those impacted. 

“Since then, I’ve been following the cases of Yefri and Pedro of Charlotte, North Carolina as well as Alexander of Thomasville, North Carolina.  All three of these young men from El Salvador entered the United States in 2014 as minors – fleeing violence in Central America. 

“Alexander says he never received a notice to appear in court and experienced extreme difficulty with our immigration system. After proactively reaching out to the Executive Office for Immigration Review hotline on several occasions to ask about his immigration hearing,   he says he was told his alien registration number was not in the system.

“The speed and scale with which juvenile cases from Central America have been processed have negative impacts on these young people’s chances – especially if they have no legal support or no one to aid them through the process.

“I have learned that in Mecklenburg County alone, an estimated 200 individuals are believed to be in similar legal situations like Alexander, Yefri and Pedro.  The same is true for others throughout North Carolina. To make matters worse – many are students.

“As a former professor for 40 years, I believe students should be in school, getting quality educations – not detained and awaiting trial – or deported into a sea of violence. However, this is the harsh reality for many of these Central American youth.

“Currently, there is no right to legal counsel in immigration proceedings here in the U.S.

Yes. You heard that right. Not even children have a right to legal representation in immigration proceedings. I’ve learned that some young people who fear deportation actually miss immigration hearings – not knowing the heightened consequences of those actions.

“It’s a shame that children are left without the resources and support needed to navigate our immigration system. I personally believe that youth fleeing violence in Central America should not be top priorities for deportation. The Department of Homeland Security must take into account humanitarian needs when they carry out their enforcement priorities for illegal immigration.

“Now is the time to stand up for these youth. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act which makes access to representation and legal services a requirement for children and the most vulnerable populations. This legislation also requires the establishment of procedures to ensure all detained immigrants have equal access to legal orientation programs.

“I call on Members of Congress to support this legislation, and for the administration to expand its own efforts to assist unaccompanied minors, youth and the most vulnerable with legal representation. Thank you.”

Full text of the Fair Day In Court for Kids Act is attached.