WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) today announced he is signing on to the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, legislation that seeks tobetter protect unaccompanied minors and vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities and victims of abuse, torture, or violence, who enter the United States to escape harsh conditions in their home countries. The bill was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
“We cannot proclaim to be a nation of liberty and justice for all if we turn our backs on innocent, vulnerable children who are fleeing life-threatening conditions,” Sen. Booker said. “I am pleased to support a bill that provides legal counsel for immigrant families and children who have already risked their lives to seek refuge and safety. This bill strengthens our immigration court system while adding a measure of compassion to support immigrant families in New Jersey and in states across the country.”
In the last two years, more than 100,000 children have come to the U.S., many of them fleeing unfathomable violence in their communities, largely from powerful transnational criminal cartels and gangs, and governments that cannot or will not protect them.
Specifically, the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act:
· Requires the government to appoint counsel to unaccompanied children and vulnerable individuals, including those with disabilities and victims of abuse, torture, or violence.
· Creates a case management pilot project to increase court appearance rates. The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to submit reports to Congress on the number of detained immigrants represented by counsel and the number of such immigrants who received legal orientation presentations.
· Requires DHS and the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure legal orientation programs are available to all detained immigrants, so that immigrants know their rights.
· Creates a case management pilot project to increase court appearance rates.
The bill is supported by a number of human rights and immigration organizations, including: Human Rights First, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), American Immigration Council, Center for American Progress, ACLU, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), America’s Voice, AAJC, First Focus Campaign for Children, Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National Immigrant Justice Center, American Pacific American Advocates, and the Safe Passage Project.