Fair Day in Court for Kids Act: Fundamental Fairness for Unaccompanied Children

March 1, 2018


Washington, DC — KIND applauds the introduction of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act by Senator Mazie Hirono and 12 co-sponsors, a great step toward protecting children who have come alone to the United States seeking safety.

“The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would be life-changing—and life-saving— for children who come alone to the United States fleeing for their lives,” said KIND President Wendy Young.

Attorneys are vital to help children navigate the complex U.S. immigration system. Without an attorney, children cannot access U.S. protection in any meaningful way. We risk sending children back to circumstances that caused them to flee in the first place.

Most unaccompanied children are fleeing from the most murderous countries in the world: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.  They face pervasive gang and narco-trafficker violence and human traffickers from which their governments cannot or will not protect them. This includes widespread sexual and gender-based violence for which there is near total impunity for perpetrators. Attorneys are a critical lifeline for many of these children.

“We cannot expect children, particularly those who are newcomers, do not speak English, and have no understanding of U.S. immigration law, to be able to present their case before an immigration judge without an attorney,” said Young.  “It is fundamentally unfair to place an unrepresented child up against a government attorney—who has been trained in U.S. immigration law and is arguing for the child’s deportation—and in front of an immigration judge without a lawyer.”

Yet, tens of thousands of children in deportation proceedings—from toddlers to teenagers— are forced to do just that. The vital need for representation is clear—only one in 10 children without an attorney is successful in gaining protection in the United States. With an attorney, a child is five times more likely to win their case. Providing counsel also improves the efficiency and effectiveness of our immigration system.

“We need the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act now more than ever. In a time when fundamental protections for unaccompanied children are being characterized as “loopholes”, these children urgently need lawyers to help them gain access to the U.S. immigration system,” Young said. “They need and deserve fundamental fairness. We should not be a nation in which children stand in a courtroom alone. The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act represents who we are truly are as a nation—fair, compassionate, and a leader in the protection of the most vulnerable.”

Cosponsors of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act are: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).


Media Contact: Megan McKenna, mmckenna@supportkind.org, 202-631-9990