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AILA: Administration Request for Funding – Not Enough to Protect Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

CONTACTS:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org
Belle Woods
202-507-7675
bwoods@aila.org

Washington, DC - Today, the Obama Administration released a summary of its planned request to Congress for supplemental appropriations to address the humanitarian crisis involving migrant children at the southern border of the United States. The following is a statement from Leslie A. Holman, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) about the provisions in the request:

"We expected more from the Administration. Some of the request is absolutely essential, but much portends steps in the wrong direction. In all of this discussion we need to remember that those at the center of this crisis are children, deserving of and entitled to protection under our laws.

"There are a few items to applaud. About half of the funding request would go to Health and Human Services so that it could offer humane care for these children while also maintaining critical services for refugees. This crisis needs to be handled without compromising the protection of refugees in any way. Unfortunately, funding to address root causes of the humanitarian crisis appears inadequate considering the overwhelming needs. The United States is without question the leader in the region and should be committing more resources to reduce violence, strengthen security and the economy, and otherwise improve conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

"AILA is most concerned about the repeated focus on detention for families. The holding of families in detention centers is generally inappropriate, opens the door for abuses and inhumane conditions, and should only be used in extremely rare circumstances. The 2009 closure of a large Texas facility due to abuses and poor conditions should have been the final word on that bad idea. Instead of detention centers, the administration should not only expand, but switch completely to, alternatives to detention, which are far more cost-effective and humane.

"The funding related to the Department of Justice for immigration judges, legal counsel and legal orientation does not go far enough. The immigration court system is chronically underfunded, and the requested infusion of funds to hire 40 additional judge teams would help. But the plan to deal with this crisis by relying on the already existing request for 35 new teams for Fiscal Year 2015 to fill out the needs here could exacerbate the court backlogs already affecting immigrants all over our country. If you need 75 new teams to help process these children and families, then get them, but don't further diminish the courts' ability to handle existing backlogs by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

"Similarly funding for the legal orientation program and legal representation will help address the problem, but the amount requested is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of vulnerable children who are overwhelmed by the immigration legal process. Ten times the amount is needed for these programs.

"This supplemental appropriations request is a critical part of addressing the humanitarian crisis. However, AILA continues to be deeply concerned at reported Administration plans to 'fast track' the deportations of these unaccompanied children. At no point should the supplemental request be used to authorize new authority that waters down the legal protections for children. That could result in children being rushed back into danger where the potential for violence is incredibly high. AILA will continue to sound that alarm as the Administration and Congress hopefully work together to address this crisis in ways that reflect our country's values," she concluded.

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14070850.