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S.2468 - Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2018

To provide access to counsel for unaccompanied alien children.

You might favor this bill if:
►  You believe unaccompanied immigrant children should have access to legal representation when they appear before an immigration judge in any removal proceeding and any subsequent appeal. Children should be informed of their right and should have access to a lawyer.

You might oppose this bill if:
►  You believe that migrant children should not have access to government-appointed counsel when detained in immigration proceedings. Children may represent themselves alone in their immigration proceedings.

The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2018 would establish a clear right to counsel to unaccompanied children when they appear in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

The bill would require that unaccompanied immigrant children be represented by a government-appointed counsel during removal proceedings and any subsequent appeals. The bill would mandate that these children are informed of this right, and have access to a lawyer even if they are being detained in a government facility. It would also encourage the recruitment of attorneys willing to help these children on a pro bono basis, and would create professional requirements and guidelines for legal representation of these children.

According to the ACLU, every day the U.S. government brings children into immigration court where they are forced to defend themselves without counsel. As a result, thousands of children, some as young as 3 and 4 years-old, are ordered to be deported without legal representation.

The Washington Post reported that Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil, who helps set standards and policies for immigration courts and judges nationwide, stated that “a fair hearing” is possible when children represent themselves in court:

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to three-year-olds and four-year-olds.It takes a lot of time....They get it,” said Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil.

According to Sen. Hirono's press release, "without some kind of legal representation, many immigrant children are unable to invoke legal protections to which they may be entitled, and even to answer questions that may result in their removal from the United States. Studies show that more than half of children without attorneys are deported. Conversely but only one out of ten with access to counsel are deported. The complex immigration system is difficult enough for an English-speaking adult to navigate with the assistance of an attorney, yet children as young as three years of age are expected to advocate for themselves—a situation that has been challenged as unconstitutional. In non-immigration cases, including criminal cases, children who cannot pay for a lawyer are afforded one at government expense."

The bill mandates that within 72 hours of a child being taken into federal custody, a counsel or lawyer must be appointed to that child. The child is to be represented by a lawyer at every stage of the proceedings, from the child’s initial appearance through the termination of immigration proceedings, and any other proceedings, even if the child reaches 18 years of age or is reunified with a parent or legal guardian while the proceedings is underway. All children are to have access to counsel inside all detention, holding, and border facilities.

“Unaccompanied children are seeking a better life away from violence, abuse, and terror in their home countries,” said Senator Hirono, sponsor of the bill. “The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act provides these children with an opportunity to tell their stories and assert what legal rights they have. These children should not be expected to represent themselves alone against the federal government, as they are some of the most vulnerable people in our legal system.”

“The right to legal counsel is a central tenet of our justice system. Yet unaccompanied immigrant children as young as 3 and 4 years old are expected to navigate the cold complexities of our legal system with no one to help them through the process,” said Senator Blumenthal, cosponsor of the legislation. “The consequences of sending these children back to the countries they are fleeing can be literally life-and-death. We have a moral obligation to ensure that that decision is made with due process, including access to an attorney.”


Sponsored by: Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI].

Cosponsored by: 0 Rep / 14 Dem.

See list of cosponsors.

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