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Thousands of immigrant children navigate the legal system alone. A Senate bill hopes to change that

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D - Colorado) is sponsoring The Immigration Court Efficiency and Children's Court Act of 2023
Migrant Children
Posted at 3:41 PM, Mar 26, 2024

DENVER – The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would give legal representation to unaccompanied immigrant children going through the immigration system.

The Immigration Court Efficiency and Children's Court Act of 2023 would provide legal representation to unaccompanied minors, create specialized child-only dockets, and train judges on how to handle the cases.  

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D - Colorado) is sponsoring the bill.

“Most of the public isn't aware that immigrants aren't given legal counsel since they're not entered into a criminal case, immigration is considered civil. Therefore, they have to pay for their own attorney, their own representation, which means lots of people, refugees, asylees, children going to court on their own and sitting up in front of a judge,” Denver-based immigration attorney Arturo Jimenez said.

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in 2023 immigration officials reported interacting with more than 152,000unaccompanied children. Jimenez said almost immediately after the children arrive, many of them begin navigating the immigration system alone.

“It's not uncommon to see like an 8-year-old, or a seven-year-old sitting up at the bench talking to the judge on their own, which is really heartbreaking,” Jimenez said. “We have so many children who not only have languished in the immigration system, we've also seen lots of kids who were lost in the system. And our government under the various presidents, the last three presidents have not had answers as to what happened to the children who have come across the border into government care. And then suddenly they've disappeared.”

Jimenez said the bill is a step in the right direction.

“When we talk about children being in the immigration system or any other system, it's very helpful to move past the rhetoric around immigration in particular, “ Jimenez said.

Jimenez said it’s a bipartisan issue that requires those in power to focus on the needs of children who are trying to navigate a new land and legal system on their own.

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