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Bipartisan bill sets up kids-only court for tens of thousands of migrant minors

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Amid the ongoing border crisis that is overwhelming immigration services and courts, one group that is facing considerable legal challenges is unaccompanied children. Tens of thousands of these children, many of whom have fled violence or poverty in their home countries, present a unique challenge.

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U.S. authorities are tasked with ensuring the well-being of the children while processing their claims for asylum, all while many of the kids lack legal representation in a court system designed for adults.

Migrants who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico wait to be processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Source: AP Photos.

Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is advocating for a new bill to establish a children’s immigration court system. Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced the Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023 on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

The proposed kids-only court would be more accessible and user-friendly for minors, expediting their cases.

“Our immigration system is deeply flawed, and innocent children seeking asylum often pay the price,” Sen. Bennet posted on social media.

According to the latest data from the Department of Justice, more than 62,000 cases are pending for immigration review involving unaccompanied minors. Less than half of those children have legal representation.

Sen. Alex Padilla, chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, emphasized that unlike criminal proceedings, respondents in immigration courts lack the right to government-appointed counsel if they cannot afford representation.

According to Padilla, less than half of all individuals with cases before immigration courts have attorneys, and navigating the complex and shifting laws is a challenge, even for immigration lawyers.

FILE - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students gather in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, June 18, 2020. A federal judge on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, declared illegal a revised version of a federal policy that prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Source: AP Photos.

The backlog in U.S. immigration courts now exceeds 2 million cases, more than tripling since the start of fiscal year 2017. Sen. Bennet has stated that the bill aims to make the process not only more humane for children but also more efficient.

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[ANCHOR]
IN THE MIDST OF THE ONGOING BORDER CRISIS THAT IS OVERWHELMING IMMIGRATION SERVICES AND COURTS, ONE GROUP HAS SEEN ITS SHARE OF DIFFICULTY IN THE LEGAL SYSTEM: CHILDREN. SPECIFICALLY UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN.

 

TENS OF THOUSANDS OF THESE CHILDREN, MANY OF WHOM FLED VIOLENCE OR POVERTY IN THEIR HOME COUNTRIES PRESENT A UNIQUE CHALLENGE.

 

U.S. AUTHORITIES ARE TASKED WITH ENSURING THEIR WELL-BEING WHILE PROCESSING THEIR CLAIMS FOR ASYLUM.

ALL OF THIS WHILE MANY OF THE KIDS ARE WITHOUT LAWYERS IN A COURT SYSTEM DESIGNED FOR ADULTS

 

NOW A BIPARTISAN GROUP OF LAWMAKERS IS PUSHING A NEW BILL TO ESTABLISH A CHILDREN’S IMMIGRATION COURT.

COLORADO DEMOCRATIC SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET AND ALASKA REPUBLICAN SENATOR LISA MURKOWSKI INTRODUCED THE IMMIGRATION COURT EFFICIENCY AND CHILDREN’S COURT ACT OF 2023 WEDNESDAY.

THE KIDS-ONLY COURT WOULD BE MORE ACCESSIBLE AND USER-FRIENDLY FOR MINORS WHILE EXPEDITING THEIR CASES.

BENNET POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA SAYING:

 

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET | (D) COLORADO
Our immigration system is deeply flawed and innocent children seeking asylum often pay the price.

 

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THE LATEST DATA FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REVEALS THAT MORE THAN 62-THOUSAND CASES ARE PENDING FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW INVOLVING UNACCOMPANIED MINORS – LESS THAN HALF OF WHICH HAVE REPRESENTATION.

 

SEN. ALEX PADILLA | (D) CA, CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP, AND BORDER SAFETY
“Unlike criminal proceedings, respondents in immigration courts also lack the right to a government appointed council if they can’t afford representation. Right now less than half of all people with cases before the immigration courts have attorneys.”

 

“Rather than guarantee representation we force non-citizens; including children, to navigate through this complex labyrinth of constantly shifting laws which even immigration lawyers have a hard time keeping up with.”

 

[ANCHOR]
MORE THAN 2 MILLION CASES ARE PENDING IN U-S IMMIGRATION COURTS. THIS BACKLOG HAS MORE THAN TRIPLED SINCE THE START OF FISCAL YEAR 2017. BENNET TELLS N-B-C NEWS THE BILL AIMS TO MAKE THE PROCESS NOT JUST MORE HUMANE FOR CHILDREN, BUT MORE EFFICIENT, TOO.