About Kid’s Court 

One of the main goals of the Keeping Kids Safe Campaign is to create a children’s court for unaccompanied children. The current U.S. immigration court system was designed for adults and is not suited to address the unique needs and vulnerabilities of unaccompanied children, including children who may be at risk of labor abuses and other exploitation. Unlike domestic child welfare systems, the immigration courts make few distinctions between adults and children, leading to adjudications that determine a child’s future without taking age, developmental stages, trauma, or individual need into account. After traveling alone hundreds or thousands of miles to the United States, to escape extreme violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other dangers, children encounter a confusing court system with no guaranteed right to a lawyer. Without help, they often cannot navigate the system and pursue their claims for legal relief. The current system is unfair to children. Meanwhile, the immigration court backlog now exceeds two million cases and is projected to continue increasing.  

The creation of a children’s court would not only ensure a more child-friendly environment in which unaccompanied children are more likely to receive due process, but also relieve strain on the immigration court system nationwide.  

The bipartisan Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023 (S.3178/H.R.6145) would establish a Children’s Court within the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) focused on the adjudication of unaccompanied children’s removal proceedings.

A Children’s Court will increase adjudication fairness for children, promote identification and mitigation of trafficking and exploitation, and help relieve strain on the immigration courts by aggregating cases and streamlining the handling of pending cases of children who have claims awaiting adjudication by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), thereby avoiding duplication of efforts by multiple government agencies. 

This legislation would ensure

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Specialized Personnel

Judges and attorneys with specialized training in child-sensitive practices and experience working with children. Their training would include methods for explaining proceedings to children; child-sensitive questioning techniques, including trauma-informed interviewing and adjudication methods; and specialization in children’s claims for immigration relief.

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Child-Appropriate Adjudications

An adjudication structure for children that encourages their full participation in their proceedings by working to ensure kids understand the proceedings, are treated appropriately for their developmental stage, and have sufficient time to secure counsel

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Coordination with Legal Services Organizations

Coordination with legal service providers and pro bono attorneys that serve unaccompanied children with the goal of expanding legal representation and avoiding waste of judicial resources. 

Additional Bill Resources

All children deserve to be safe, protected, and treated with fairness. Creating a Kid’s Court would help ensure that unaccompanied children—many of whom have left dangerous circumstances and are seeking asylum—are treated fairly within the U.S. immigration system. In a Children’s Court, children would interact with adults trained in working with children and trauma; have access to the language resources they needed to understand proceedings; and have a greater chance at legal representation.

Establishing a Kid’s Court is an essential piece of KIND’s vision of a transformed child migration system. Specifically, Kid’s Court aligns with three of the principles of the Keeping Kids Safe Campaign:  

  • Principle I: Unaccompanied immigrant children are children first 
  • Principle III: U.S. immigration laws and policies should recognize and address the unique vulnerabilities of children.   
  • Principle V: Federal, state, and local officials have a responsibility to work cooperatively to adopt best practices to protect the interests of all children, regardless of race, nationality, or immigration status.   

In the past, New York City’s immigration court at 26 Federal Plaza consolidated the cases of unaccompanied children on a juvenile docket and partnered with not-for-profit and pro bono attorneys to ensure that attorneys were present on juvenile docket days to provide legal screenings and, wherever possible, representation at no cost to the child. The court also provided a space for such screenings to take place, along with advance notice to the charitable agencies staffing the docket of the number of new children who would need screening. Thanks to the juvenile docket, hundreds of vulnerable, low-income children received the legal representation they—and the court—needed to properly evaluate their eligibility for immigration relief under federal law. In 2017, New York’s immigration court stopped consolidating cases of unaccompanied children on a juvenile docket and ceased to partner with legal service providers in connecting unrepresented children to legal screenings at court. As a result, children and their caregivers had to navigate court on their own and find legal representation independently. 

Feature Resource

Summary: Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023

Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act (S.3178/H.R.6145): Unaccompanied children face daunting obstacles in navigating the complex U.S. immigration system, and their unique vulnerability demands a unique system to adjudicate their claims. Many children have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to the United States, often completely on their own, to escape extreme violence, sexual […]

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Why It Matters

"There are procedural rules in the immigration court that are difficult to navigate for an attorney. I cannot imagine how a child proceeding without an attorney could be successful in the courts. The Children's Court Act proposal to require the court to coordinate with legal services providers could greatly increase the participation of pro bono attorneys. I can attest that KIND and similar groups do a tremendous job of helping pro bono attorneys represent clients in Immigration Court, by conducting initial client screenings, providing outreach and training to law firms, and otherwise facilitating attorney representations."
John Todaro, Executive Director, IP Group – Office of General Counsel, Merck
"Working with KIND opened my eyes to the realities that drive many children and women to flee the homes and countries they love to enter the USA because of the rampant abuse, neglect, violence, and threats. I also quickly realized that there is no meaningful way for an unrepresented minor to navigate the Byzantine immigration system, much less someone who did not speak English. Many children must not only navigate immigration court but also state family court, a different, but also complex, system."
Stan Perry, Partner, ReedSmith LLP
"I have personally witnessed tender-aged children who are not even old enough to speak appear in court before an immigration judge. Although many judges try their best to help these children navigate the system and pursue legal relief to potentially prevent them from being deported, even the best-case scenario imposes a heavy (and avoidable!) burden on the court and, in turn, on U.S. taxpayers."
Martin, Staff Attorney, New York City
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Children are not little adults in immigration court

  I was eight years old when I came to the United States from Cuba with my family after the Cuban Revolution. Though I understood why we had to leave Cuba, I was much too young at the time to understand the weight of the decision my parents made and the process they had to […]

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Children fleeing alone need our compassion and protection

Violence, conflict and oppression seem to be everywhere these days. The horrors in the Middle East, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Haiti and many more places are devastating to contemplate. And the dangerous flight for safety they spur: Life-threatening travels on overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean, journeys through deserts, jungles and land controlled by gangs and other criminals […]

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For more information and to contact the campaign, please e-mail: KeepingKidsSafe@supportkind.org 


Keeping Kids Safe Campaign