AILA Press Release: Protecting the Most Vulnerable

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Contact:   Julia Hendrix
(202) 216-2404

October 21, 2003

Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2003 Will Help Protect Immigrant Children

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California), along with seven original co-sponsors, today introduced crucial legislation that would protect the most vulnerable in our society, the more than 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children, and address many of the serious issues they face. 

Currently, these children, who are unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian, often do not have access to legal representation during immigration proceedings.  In addition, they rarely have a legal guardian, known as a guardian ad litem, to ensure their interests are best served.  Frequently, they even are placed in dangerous detention facilities while awaiting their immigration proceedings. 

“These children, who include asylum seekers, may be forced into sweatshop labor or sexual servitude.  They often are unable to understand the complex legal process and have no one to guide them through the process.  We must address the conditions these children find themselves in,” stated Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

“This bill addresses these concerns and will help ensure that immigrant children will be treated humanely and with dignity. This is the minimum that we as a nation must do. We commend Representative Lofgren for her initiative on this important legislation and we urge Congress to quickly pass it,” added Butterfield.

AILA also urges the Senate to quickly move out of the Judiciary Committee the companion bill, the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, S. 1129, introduced on May 22, 2003 by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and George Voinivich (R-OH).

“This legislation declares that all children in America, regardless of their legal status, will be ensured legal protection.  Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of a child,” concluded Butterfield.   

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853  

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03102242.