On February 11, several Democratic senators introduced the “Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016,” which mandates that unaccompanied children and vulnerable immigrants receive legal representation. The bill requires the government to appoint and pay for counsel for unaccompanied children and particularly vulnerable individuals, such as persons with a disability; victims of abuse, torture, or violence; or individuals whose circumstances are such that the appointment of counsel is necessary to help ensure fair resolution and efficient adjudication of the proceedings. The bill also clarifies and expands access to counsel for other immigrants in removal proceedings, whether or not they are detained, and requires DHS to provide such immigrants with all relevant charging documents before their removal proceedings can move forward. Moreover, information about legal services at detention facilities would be provided through formal procedures that ensure that legal orientation programs are available for all detainees. Also, a two-year pilot program to provide legal orientation programs to nondetained asylum seekers would be created in at least two immigration courts.
Our nation has one of the most complicated immigration systems in the world, and one of its huge flaws is that it does not guarantee legal representation to individuals facing deportation. This bill represents a huge step toward ensuring fairness in these complex proceedings.