Hirono bill would require feds to provide legal, medical services to unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. care
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and top Democrats are launching a series of new proposals aimed at helping migrants detained in U.S. care. It comes after two children died in the hands of U.S. officials at the nation’s Southern border last year.
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and top Democrats are launching a series of new proposals aimed at helping migrants detained in U.S. care. The plan would require the government to provide a lawyer for undocumented children during immigration proceedings, among other critical changes.
The package of immigration bills would offer what the group of Senators call humane treatment and care for undocumented children crossing into the United States. It comes after two children died in the hands of U.S. officials at the nation’s Southern border last year.
“No one should be dying when they are in our custody and under our care,” Hirono said.
Hirono announced those sweeping bills during a news conference wednesday with Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto.
“There is absolutely no reason to treat them as criminals as they await an asylum hearing,” Merkley said.
In short, the three bills would require the government to provide legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children during immigration proceedings; require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide and conduct medical and welfare checks on the children; and prevent the courts from meeting immigration quotas.
“Think about it, these children are very young,” Hirono said, who noted many are of early elementary school age. “They don’t speak the language, and they are supposed to navigate the immigration proceedings?”
Currently, advocacy groups and even some college students defend children in court for free. Those groups say this legislation is a long time coming.
“Right now, less than half of unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings have an attorney by their side,” said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which offers pro bono legal services to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in the United States.
All of this could be a tall order as the Trump administration ramps up its efforts on the Southern border.
According to the Trump administration, CBP apprehended more than 76,000 migrants in Feb. 2019 alone. More than 7,200 of them–nearly 1-in-10 – were unaccompanied children.