March 7, 2019 – KIND would like to thank Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for their leadership in introducing three important immigration bills which will improve the overall care and treatment of immigrant children the U.S. southern border.
KIND’s President Wendy Young made the following remarks in support of the three bills:
“Just yesterday, reports that children, arriving alone and with families, make up the vast majority of arrivals at our Southern border. These children are coming fleeing unimaginable violence and are in desperate need of protection.
As the President of KIND, an organization dedicated to providing high quality legal representation for unaccompanied children, I know first hand how important it is for our immigration enforcement and justice systems to be modernized to properly address this special population. Right now, less than half of the unaccompanied children in removal proceedings have an attorney.
Just in the past few months we have seen children die in border patrol custody, children with strong claims for protection give up their cases because they could not acesss an attorney to help them fight their case, and children continue to be separated from their parents. The bills being introduced today will ensure children are treated properly while in federal custody, senseless family separations will end, and that children will have a fair opportunity to tell their story and ask for protection.
All three bills will go a long way to make the system more efficient, and ensure we are fulfilling our obligation to protect children coming to us looking for help.”
The Fair Day in Courts for Kids Act of 2019 would provide legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children during immigration proceedings. Among other things, the bill would require the government to provide legal counsel for these kids, inform the kids of this right, and ensure that kids who are detained in a government facility have access to a lawyer.
The Child Trafficking Victims Protection and Welfare Act of 2019 would help ensure that children in CBP custody receive proper care based on the expertise of child welfare professionals, access to legal services, and remain in safe and sanitary conditions. Among other things, the bill would establish certain standards of care for children in CBP custody, including a climate-appropriate environment, a bed and sufficient linens, and adequate nutrition and water; require CBP to consult with child welfare experts and develop guidelines; and require licensed child welfare professionals to be available at certain ports of entry and Border Patrol stations to conduct screenings of children which will not only help comply with TVPRA but also ensure separations are not happening when they are not necessary.
The Immigration Court Improvement Act of 2019 would help insulate immigration judges from political interference or manipulation by ensuring that performance appraisals are not measured using quotas. The bill would also bar immigration judges from being disciplined for good-faith judicial decisions.