Washington, DC—Unaccompanied children are among the world’s most vulnerable groups, traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to the United States to escape dangers no child should ever face. Once in the United States, they confront daunting obstacles navigating the U.S. immigration system while often traumatized and with no understanding of the process. As the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship holds a hearing to consider the establishment of an independent Article 1 immigration court today, KIND urges that this court include a separate children’s division to adjudicate the claims of unaccompanied children and address their particular needs.
“The vulnerabilities of these children, and the complexity of U.S. immigration law, demand a unique system to adjudicate their claims that include the right to an attorney and a specialized court that is centered in child-friendly court practices. This children’s division of a new court system should be solely dedicated to the adjudication of children’s claims, and it should focus on the best interests of children, including prioritizing child safety, permanency, and well-being,” KIND said in its statement for the record.
KIND recommends that a children’s court be overseen by a specially trained corps of judges who have experience working with children. The children’s court should employ a less adversarial approach than traditional immigration courts, and Department of Homeland Security attorneys representing the government in these cases should be trained in child-sensitive practices and children’s unique claims for immigration relief.
An independent immigration court would also improve due process, reduce political influence, and increase judicial independence. KIND has witnessed how political interference in the immigration courts has real-world consequences for children in immigration proceedings. Because the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) runs the immigration court system under the Department of Justice, the Attorney General has the authority to drastically alter precedent and policy and to limit judicial discretion.
For more information, please see KIND’s statement for the record.
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