Recent Legislation On Unaccompanied Children (as of March 4, 2016)

Helpful resources to respond to these bills:

S.2540 and H.R.4646the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016 would mandate that unaccompanied children and vulnerable immigrants receive legal representation. It would require that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ensure that immigrants at detention and border facilities have access to counsel, would require DHS to provide immigrants in removal proceedings with all relevant charging documents, and would prohibit removal proceedings from moving forward until he or she had received and reviewed these documents (or waived their right to review). The bill would require DHS to facilitate access to counsel for all detained immigrants by ICE or CBP and provide information about legal services programs at detention centers, and require DHS and the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure that legal orientation programs (LOPs) are available to all detained immigrants. It would also create a pilot program within DHS to provide grants to NGOs for case management services to unaccompanied children and vulnerable individuals. DHS and the AG would be required to annually report to Congress the number and percentage of people represented by counsel and at which stage of the legal process that person was represented, including whether the person was held in government custody. Sponsors: Rep. Lofgren, Zoe [D-CA-19] and co-sponsored by Rep. Gutierrez, Luis V. [D-IL-4], Rep. Roybal-Allard, Lucille [D-CA-40], Rep. Hoyer, Steny H. [D-MD-5], Rep. Conyers, John, Jr. [D-MI-13], Rep. McGovern, James P. [D-MA-2], Rep. Quigley, Mike [D-IL-5], Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9], Rep. Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. [D-GA-4], Rep. Honda, Michael M. [D-CA-17], Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3], Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18], Rep. Ellison, Keith [D-MN-5], Rep. Cardenas, Tony [D-CA-29], Rep. O’Rourke, Beto [D-TX-16], Rep. Chu, Judy [D-CA-27], Rep. Sanchez, Linda T. [D-CA-38], Rep. Becerra, Xavier [D-CA-34], Rep. Vargas, Juan [D-CA-51], Rep. Napolitano, Grace F. [D-CA-32], Rep. DelBene, Suzan K. [D-WA-1], Rep. Adams, Alma S. [D-NC-12], Rep. Polis, Jared [D-CO-2], Rep. Crowley, Joseph [D-NY-14], Rep. Torres, Norma J. [D-CA-35], Rep. Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9], Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large], Rep. Hahn, Janice [D-CA-44], Rep. Serrano, Jose E. [D-NY-15], Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7], Rep. Kennedy, Joseph P., III [D-MA-4], Rep. Larson, John B. [D-CT-1], Rep. Scott, Robert C. “Bobby” [D-VA-3], Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1], Rep. Gallego, Ruben [D-AZ-7], Rep. Moore, Gwen [D-WI-4], Rep. Dingell, Debbie [D-MI-12], Rep. Sires, Albio [D-NJ-8], Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7], Rep. Deutch, Theodore E. [D-FL-21], Rep. DeGette, Diana [D-CO-1], Rep. Doggett, Lloyd [D-TX-35], Rep. Jeffries, Hakeem S. [D-NY-8], Rep. Kind, Ron [D-WI-3], Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9], Rep. McDermott, Jim [D-WA-7], Rep. Pierluisi, Pedro R. [D-PR-At Large], Rep. Castro, Joaquin [D-TX-20], Rep. Nadler, Jerrold [D-NY-10], Rep. Lujan Grisham, Michelle [D-NM-1], Rep. Capps, Lois [D-CA-24], Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [D-FL-23], and 3 Democrat Representatives. Sponsors: Sen. Reid, Harry [D-NV] and co-sponsored by Sen. Durbin, Richard [D-IL], Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA], Sen. Leahy, Patrick J. [D-VT], Sen. Menendez, Robert [D-NJ], Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI], Sen. Franken, Al [D-MN], Sen. Udall, Tom [D-NM], Sen. Brown, Sherrod [D-OH], and 3 Democrat and 1 Independent Senators.

H.R.3606 The Child Trafficking Victims Protection Act would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold trainings for anyone at DHS who comes into contact with unaccompanied children and to hire child welfare professionals to conduct the initial interviews when these children arrive in the United States. This bill would also require DHS to inform unaccompanied children of their right to speak with an attorney and to refer children to ORR’s care within two days of entering DHS custody. This bill would require DHS to adopt policies to ensure children are adequately protected while held in detention. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would have to ensure that programs – in the United States and in the child’s home country – support their safe and sustainable return home. Sponsors: Rep. Roybal-Allard, Lucille [D-CA-40] and co-sponsored by 1 Democrat Representative

H.R.4720The Expedited Family Reunification Act of 2016 would roll back protections in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) by denying children seeking asylum from the Northern Triangle of Central America their right to processing by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Instead, unaccompanied children would be improperly processed by law enforcement as criminals, expediting their deportation back to situations of violence. Currently,  children from Northern Triangle countries, such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, are referred to ORR, which has the expertise to determine these children’s needs and what is in their best interest. This bill would stop referrals to ORR altogether, requiring only a cursory screening with a border patrol agent before being sent back to conflict. Sponsors: Rep. Salmon, Matt [R-AZ-5] and co-sponsored by Rep. Brooks, Mo [R-AL-5] Rep. Farenthold, Blake [R-TX-27] Rep. Gosar, Paul A. [R-AZ-4] Rep. Schweikert, David [R-AZ-6] Rep. Buck, Ken [R-CO-4] Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4] Rep. Duncan, Jeff [R-SC-3] Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8] Rep. Barletta, Lou [R-PA-11] Rep. McClintock, Tom [R-CA-4]

H.R.439The Illegal Entry Accountability Act of 2015 would suspend all U.S. foreign aid to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, countries facing the some of the worst violence and murder rates around the world, except for funding under the international narcotic control law enforcement (INCLE) program. Foreign assistance would be reinstated only if these countries took steps to reduce the number of people presenting themselves to the U.S. Border Patrol officers. Sponsors: Rep. Weber, Randy K., Sr. [R-TX-14] and co-sponsored by Rep. Ellmers, Renee L. [R-NC-2] Rep. Brooks, Mo [R-AL-5] Rep. Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1] Rep. Massie, Thomas [R-KY-4] Rep. DesJarlais, Scott [R-TN-4] Rep. Babin, Brian [R-TX-36] Rep. Rice, Tom [R-SC-7] Rep. Clawson, Curt [R-FL-19] and 4 Republican Representatives

S.2561 and H.R.1149The Protection of Children Act of 2016 would roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) by granting the Secretary of State the discretion to designate that unaccompanied children from certain non-contiguous countries need no longer be screened by child welfare experts nor have their claims individually adjudicated. Rather, unaccompanied children from countries designated by the Secretary of State could be deported after only having had a cursory screening before a border patrol agent.  The bill would further require that children from non-designated countries have a hearing before a judge no later than 14 days after their initial screening which happens within 48 hours of apprehension.  While children should be given timely court dates, this short turn around would prevent children from having an opportunity to speak with an attorney, learn their legal rights and protections available, and meaningfully have their story heard. This bill would require Health and Human Services to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the immigration status of persons given custody of unaccompanied children.  The immigration status of a person is irrelevant to their ability to care for a child and this provision would aggressively deport undocumented immigrants who provide care for unaccompanied children, further separating families who only desire to be together. Sponsors: Sen. Sessions, Jeff [R-AL], Sen. Johnson, Ron [R-WI]. Sponsors: Rep. Carter, John R. [R-TX-31] and co-sponsored by Rep. Goodlatte, Bob [R-VA-6], Rep. Smith, Lamar [R-TX-21], Rep. Gowdy, Trey [R-SC-4], Rep. Farenthold, Blake [R-TX-27], Rep. Collins, Doug [R-GA-9], Rep. Marino, Tom [R-PA-10], Rep. Aderholt, Robert B. [R-AL-4], Rep. Burgess, Michael C. [R-TX-26], Rep. Culberson, John Abney [R-TX-7], Rep. Marchant, Kenny [R-TX-24], Rep. Williams, Roger [R-TX-25], Rep. Fleischmann, Charles J. “Chuck” [R-TN-3], and 27 Republican Representatives.

H.R. 2491 – Our Communities, Our Choices Act of 2015 would add language to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 requiring that State and local elected officials are notified before grants or contracts for housing facilities for unaccompanied children are awarded.  They must be made aware of the facility location, the planned duration of stay of the child, and the security and funding details of the facility.  Once an announcement of a housing location for the child is made, a public hearing must be held within 90 days for public commentary and with a Health and Human Services representative in attendance.  This only adds a layer of bureaucracy that slows the process for placing a child in more suitable environments for appropriate care and prolongs their stay in inhumane detention and processing facilities. Sponsors: Rep. Olson, Pete [R-TX-22] and co-sponsored by Rep. Sanford, Mark [R-SC-1], Rep. Black, Diane [R-TN-6], Rep. Culberson, John Abney [R-TX-7], Rep. Mullin, Markwayne [R-OK-2], and 1 Republican Representative.

H.R.530 – Unaccompanied Alien Children Assistance Control Act would reduce the amount of foreign assistance for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador based on the number of unaccompanied children from those countries and who had been detained because of their immigration status, multiplied by $15,000. Sponsor: Rep. Burgess, Michael C. [R-TX-26].

H.R.1153The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015 would severely reduce protections for asylum seekers, including children. It would raise the standard for expedited removal screening to an unduly high level. The bill would require that any asylum seeker to be permitted simply to apply for asylum to demonstrate not only a “significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum,” but also prove it is more likely than not that his or her statements are true. This prohibitively high standard is inappropriate as a screening tool, and many asylum seekers with legitimate claims would be screened out simply because of the conditions under which interviews are conducted, such as in immigration detention facilities, by phone, with traumatized applicants, and/or relying on interpreters of variable quality. The bill would deny asylum to large numbers of refugees based on transit or stays in countries where they had no legal status, or no lasting legal status, and to which they cannot be returned in most cases. Refugees with valid claims would be left in the United States under orders of removal and could spend the rest of their lives unable to be returned to their countries of origin without another place to go. H.R. 1153 would prevent arriving asylum seekers who have passed the credible fear screening process from being paroled from immigration detention, instead leaving them in jails and facilities with conditions that resemble jails for months or longer, even though there are more fiscally-prudent and humane alternatives that have been proven effective. The bill would severely narrow the definition of an “unaccompanied child” and allow unaccompanied children to be held in the custody of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) for as long as one month rather than being transferred to the more appropriate care of the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill would subject unaccompanied children to the arbitrary one-year asylum filing deadline bar. It would prohibit the use of government resources for access to counsel for anyone in removal or appeal proceedings, even though studies have confirmed that representation encourages appearance for court and saves the government money. It would allow asylum applicants, unaccompanied children, to be bounced to third countries in the absence of any agreement between the United States and the countries in question for the reception of asylum seekers. The transit country would likely return the person to his home country despite fears of persecution. Sponsors: Rep. Chaffetz, Jason [R-UT-3] and co-sponsored by Rep. Goodlatte, Bob [R-VA-6], Rep. Smith, Lamar [R-TX-21], Rep. Gowdy, Trey [R-SC-4], Rep. Farenthold, Blake [R-TX-27], Rep. Carter, John R. [R-TX-31], Rep. Collins, Doug [R-GA-9], Rep. Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1], Rep. Black, Diane [R-TN-6], Rep. Webster, Daniel [R-FL-10], Rep. Barletta, Lou [R-PA-11], Rep. Forbes, J. Randy [R-VA-4], and 29 Republican Representatives.

S.44 would require mandatory detention of all unaccompanied child, despite the overwhelming consensus that detention is unsafe and unfit for the unique needs of children. This bill would change the standards for “credible fear of persecution” to “substantiated fear of persecution” for children seeking asylum under the law. In addition to changing the already strict asylum standards in place, this bill would give children the “option” to voluntarily return to their country of origin. No child, let alone one who may have been subjected to abuse or trauma in their home country and/or on their journey to the United States, is fit to make a decision to voluntarily return to their country of origin.  This provision would prevent children with credible asylum claims from ever standing before a judge.  The legislation would require children without asylum claims to be deported within 72 hours of an initial screening, potentially risking that a traumatized child, unable yet to disclose his or her story would be returned to persecutors or traffickers.  Victims of trauma often need more time to speak openly about their case and the 72 hour deadline set by S.2632 would send victims of serious crimes back into life-threatening situations. Sponsor: Sen. Vitter, David [R-LA].

H.R.4537the Resist Executive Amnesty on Defense Installations Act (or READI Act) would prohibit anyone without a lawful immigration status or is undergoing the removal process from the United States. These individuals would be prohibited from being housed on military ground within the United States. Sponsors: Rep. Carter, John R. [R-TX-31] and co-sponsored by Rep. Roby, Martha [R-AL-2], Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8], Rep. Farenthold, Blake [R-TX-27], Rep. Babin, Brian [R-TX-36], Rep. Weber, Randy K., Sr. [R-TX-14], Rep. Meadows, Mark [R-NC-11], Rep. Granger, Kay [R-TX-12], Rep. Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN-7], Rep. Hartzler, Vicky [R-MO-4], Rep. Barton, Joe [R-TX-6], Rep. Zinke, Ryan K. [R-MT-At Large], Rep. Calvert, Ken [R-CA-42], Rep. Cook, Paul [R-CA-8], Rep. Bost, Mike [R-IL-12], Rep. Johnson, Sam [R-TX-3], Rep. Lummis, Cynthia M. [R-WY-At Large], Rep. Gohmert, Louie [R-TX-1], Rep. Neugebauer, Randy [R-TX-19], Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8], Rep. Stivers, Steve [R-OH-15], Rep. McCaul, Michael T. [R-TX-10], Rep. Noem, Kristi L. [R-SD-At Large], Rep. Forbes, J. Randy [R-VA-4], Rep. Palmer, Gary J. [R-AL-6], Rep. Rogers, Mike D. [R-AL-3], Rep. Bridenstine, Jim [R-OK-1, Rep. Marino, Tom [R-PA-10], Rep. King, Peter T. [R-NY-2], Rep. Donovan, Daniel M., Jr. [R-NY-11], Rep. Simpson, Michael K. [R-ID-2], Rep. Tiberi, Patrick J. [R-OH-12], Rep. Cole, Tom [R-OK-4], Rep. Amodei, Mark E. [R-NV-2], Rep. Smith, Lamar [R-TX-21], Rep. Culberson, John Abney [R-TX-7], Rep. Roskam, Peter J. [R-IL-6], Rep. Olson, Pete [R-TX-22], Rep. Barletta, Lou [R-PA-11], Rep. Young, Don [R-AK-At Large], Rep. Nugent, Richard B. [R-FL-11], Rep. Burgess, Michael C. [R-TX-26], Rep. Ratcliffe, John [R-TX-4], Rep. Cramer, Kevin [R-ND-At Large], Rep. Williams, Roger [R-TX-25], Rep. Gosar, Paul A. [R-AZ-4], Rep. Hunter, Duncan D. [R-CA-50], Rep. Huelskamp, Tim [R-KS-1], Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4], Rep. Brooks, Mo [R-AL-5], Rep. Schweikert, David [R-AZ-6], Rep. Rouzer, David [R-NC-7], Rep. Flores, Bill [R-TX-17], Rep. Wilson, Joe [R-SC-2], Rep. LaMalfa, Doug [R-CA-1], Rep. Posey, Bill [R-FL-8], Rep. Palazzo, Steven M. [R-MS-4], and 1 Republican Representative.