Senate Passes Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act

The Senate, on 12/22/05, amended and passed by unanimous consent the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act (UACPA) of 2005 (S. 119), sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The UACPA seeks to address the inappropriate treatment unaccompanied alien children face upon arrival in the United States. A House companion bill (H.R. 1172), introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), has not yet been acted upon.

The UACPA builds upon provisions of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which transferred the care and custody of unaccompanied alien children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The UACPA seeks to address many of the holes in our immigration system’s treatment of unaccompanied children by providing: access to guardians ad litem; alternative custody and detention options; improved age determination procedures; training for immigration personnel; an infrastructure for pro bono representation; and Codifying DHS Children’s Asylum Guidelines.

An earlier version of the UACPA introduced in the 108th Congress had 67 cosponsors and unanimously passed the Senate. We are hopeful that Congress will move quickly to pass this modest, but critically important reform bill.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 05122216.