AILA Applauds House Access to Counsel Legislation

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

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds the introduction of the "Fair Day in Court for Kids Act" in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), with the following statement from AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis:

"Even though our immigration laws are among the most complicated in the world, there is still no government-guaranteed legal counsel for asylum seekers, children, and other vulnerable groups. In just the past two years, more than 112,000 families and unaccompanied children appeared in immigration court without a lawyer at their side, even though the outcome of the hearing could mean the difference between life and death. How is it possible for a mother or child who does not understand the language or have any knowledge of the asylum process to even remotely understand the meaning of complex legal terms like 'persecution' or 'particular social group'? Without an attorney, the deck is stacked against them.

"AILA welcomes the introduction in the House of Representatives of the 'Fair Day in Court for Kids Act,' the companion to a Senate bill introduced two weeks ago. These bills would stop the injustice of forcing vulnerable individuals to face deportation without counsel. Asylum seekers represented by counsel in expedited removal proceedings are twelve times more likely to be granted asylum. Children with attorneys are five times more likely to be granted protection. Rapidly moving asylum seekers through unfamiliar proceedings without attorneys to represent them is simply unfair and should not be the norm in this country.

"The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would require the appointment of counsel for children, families and other vulnerable individuals. The federal government would be required to ensure access to counsel for anyone in detention, including at border facilities, as well as for people subject to fast-track asylum screenings that bypass courts altogether. Additionally, the bill would strengthen legal orientation programs, post-release services, and the collection of data about legal representation. If enacted, this legislation would be a critical step toward ensuring due process in our immigration system and strengthening America's welcoming reputation in the eyes of the world."

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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. 16022600.