AILA Welcomes Introduction of 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) welcomed the introduction of the "Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016" by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis responded with the following statement:

"Given that our country's immigration laws are among the most complicated in the world, it is appalling that the government still does not guarantee legal counsel to asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations facing deportation. In the past two years, more than 112,000 families and unaccompanied children appeared without lawyers in their deportation proceedings. How can a woman who speaks no English and has just arrived with her child at the border be expected to use legal terms like 'persecution' or 'particular social group' when she has no knowledge of the asylum process? Anyone who has looked into the eyes of a child appearing before an immigration judge or officer knows how difficult and frightening it can be to recount being raped, tortured, or abused. A lawyer is essential to help a child tell his or her story and to make our system fair.

"AILA applauds the introduction of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which would stop the injustice of forcing people to face deportation without counsel. Asylum seekers represented by counsel in expedited removal proceedings are 12 times more likely to be granted asylum. Children with attorneys are five times more likely to be granted protection. Seeking asylum should not be like playing roulette and facing unfair odds.

"With no government system to provide lawyers, AILA attorneys have volunteered to represent hundreds of Central American families seeking asylum who are detained in facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. Of the 121 mothers and children arrested in the January raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, less than half had a lawyer to represent them in their removal hearings.

"The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act not only expands the existing right to legal counsel in immigration proceedings but also requires the appointment of counsel for children, families and other vulnerable individuals. The government would be required to ensure access to counsel for anyone in detention, including border facilities, as well as for families and individuals subject to fast-track asylum screenings conducted in border regions. Finally, it strengthens legal orientation programs, post-release services, and the collection of data about legal representation. This legislation would go a long way toward ensuring a measure of fairness and due process in the immigration system for the most vulnerable."

###

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. 16021103.