Legal representation of children also prevents waste of judicial resources by screening out inapplicable forms of protection and minimizing unneeded court time. With the immigration court backlog now exceeding 1.2 million cases, the enhanced efficiency afforded by attorneys is needed more than ever.
Yet though counsel is essential to ensuring the fairness and efficiency of unaccompanied children’s cases—though it can mean the difference between a child’s life and death——there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings. In fact, over half of unaccompanied children currently lack attorneys. Far from a novel problem, year after year many if not most unaccompanied children face immigration court alone. It is imperative that Congress meaningfully confront this systemic due process failure.
FAIR Proceedings Act (S. 2389/H.R. 4155)
The Funding Attorneys for Indigent Removal (FAIR) Proceedings Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Donald McEachin (D-VA), would resolve chronic underrepresentation of unaccompanied children by ensuring the provision of attorneys to these children for the duration of their immigration proceedings.
Among other vital changes, this legislation would:
- Mandate the provision of counsel to unaccompanied children and other vulnerable individuals undergoing immigration proceedings, including victims of abuse, torture, and violence, persons with disabilities, and individuals whose income is at or below 200 percent of the poverty line;
- Ensure access to counsel, including the availability of legal orientation programs, for all individuals detained in Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities; and
- Require that all individuals in immigration proceedings receive and have adequate time to review Department of Homeland Security documents relevant to their cases before those proceedings move forward.
KIND strongly endorses the FAIR Proceedings Act and urges Members of Congress to protect due process and fundamental fairness for vulnerable unaccompanied children by cosponsoring this legislation. For further information, please contact KIND’s Director of Policy, Jason Boyd, at email@example.com.
 See, e.g., KIND, “Death by a Thousand Cuts” (May 2018); https://supportkind.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Death-by-a-Thousand-Cuts_May-2018.pdf.
 TRAC, “Immigration Court Backlog Tool” (through Aug. 2020); https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/.