Improving the Protection and Fair Treatment of Unaccompanied Children: Recommendations for the Next Administration

Published by Kids in Need of Defense. Published in 2016.

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This article presents recommendations to improve outcomes for unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in deportation proceedings.

Highlights include:

  • “Unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children who are facing deportation proceedings, regardless of age, are not appointed attorneys to represent them in the complex immigration court process. Children are unable to navigate the U.S. immigration system without an attorney or raise a defense against a government attorney who is arguing for the child to be deported. Without the provision of representation, the United States risks sending large numbers of children back to grave harm, and even death” (p. 7).
  • “Counsel also helps reduce waste of valuable judicial resources. When children are unrepresented, proceedings are often delayed as immigration judges give the child more time to find an attorney. Attorneys can screen children for relief, reduce the amount of unneeded court time, and help ensure that hearings are conducted more efficiently. Attorneys also help reduce fraud by unauthorized representatives, often known as notarios, who take advantage of desperate families, particularly those who are trying to find an attorney for their child in the limited time allotted before the child must appear in court.” (p. 7).
  • “Attorneys representing children in immigration court are obligated to advocate for the child’s express wishes. There are times when the child’s wishes conflict with their best interests. Therefore, in addition to legal services, unaccompanied children need assistance promoting their best interests. In cases in which a child lacks the capacity to express her interests, where best interests and expressed interests differ (e.g., the child despairs of spending another month in detention and asks to return to her country where she may be killed), or when concerns regarding the child’s attorney are raised (e.g., unethical behavior), child advocates are vital. ” (p. 8)


Categories: Children, Immigration, Law School Clinics, Legal Aid Attorneys, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), Migrants/Immigrants, National, Policymakers and Funders, Pro Bono

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