Guarantee legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children
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Pictured above: Angela from El Salvador, a client KIND helped to gain protection in the U.S.
As a policy advocate for migrant children, I’ve heard some devastating stories, but Mary’s was the worst. Growing up in Guatemala, this young girl was regularly beaten and abused by family members when one day a woman approached her offering to help her migrate to the United States. Eager to escape the abuse, Mary accepted the offer, only to be kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring. For months, Mary suffered severe physical and sexual abuse until she was abandoned near the U.S. border and ultimately apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
After all that she’d been through, Mary had a very strong case to apply for asylum in the United States, but no lawyer to help her. Unaccompanied minors are not guaranteed any sort of legal representation when seeking refuge in the U.S.
This means that children like Mary are often required to be their own lawyers when applying for asylum – unless Congress passes the Fair Day In Court for Kids Act, which would guarantee legal representation to child migrants.
Sign my petition to make sure that children like Mary get the legal representation they need to seek safety and security in the United States.
No child should be forced to face a courtroom alone, especially when the outcome may be a matter of life or death. In my work for Kids In Need of Defense, we frequently come across children as young as four or five who don’t have a lawyer. Jesus was only three years old when his family sent him to the U.S. to protect him from gangs who had tortured and killed another toddler in their community. Our organization was able to help him, but he was one of the lucky ones.
Some people think that children should be able to legally represent themselves – one immigration judge recently said that he had taught immigration law to 3- and 4 year-olds. But I have a 5-year-old son who is fluent in English and I would be terrified if I knew that his safety depended on his ability to be his own lawyer. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a deeply traumatized 5-year-old who does not speak English to face a trained government attorney in an extremely complicated and adversarial legal process.
Leaving these children alone and without an attorney is shameful. Please sign this petition to tell Congress that it’s time to pass the Fair Day In Court for Kids Act.
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