Home McEachin introduces legislation to provide justice for immigrant children

McEachin introduces legislation to provide justice for immigrant children

Rebecca Barnabi
Photo Credit: duncanandison

The Funding Attorneys for Indigent Removal (FAIR) Proceedings Act would guarantee legal counsel during removal proceedings for immigrant children, individuals with disabilities, victims of abuse, torture and violence.

The FAIR Proceedings Act would also ensure legal counsel for individuals living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Congressman A. Donald McEachin of Virginia and Zoe Lofgren of California introduced the legislation on Tuesday, according to a press release.

Despite American constitutional guarantees in criminal cases, individuals involved in removal proceedings in immigration cases do not have a right to counsel. The FAIR Proceedings Act would appoint or provide an attorney for vulnerable individuals. Funding would come from reserving a $10 portion of the existing fees collected from individuals when they apply for immigration benefits.

“As a former attorney, I believe vulnerable individuals should have access to counsel during such formative and potentially life-altering hearings,” McEachin said in the press release. “It is unconscionable that children, victims and people with disabilities are left without any legal representation during such impactful proceedings, and we cannot allow it to continue. I am proud to introduce the FAIR Proceedings Act to provide vulnerable individuals with the legal resources they need while presenting their case in immigration court. Not only is this a matter of fairness and due process, but it will also help expedite court processes and reduce the immigration court backlog.”

Lofgren, chair of the House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, said that immigrant children and vulnerable individuals, such as asylum seekers, should be afforded justice in the United States.

“This bill would importantly help reduce the immigration court backlog, save the government money, and guarantee that the due process rights of children are protected,” Lofgren said in the press release.

Endorsed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the legislation would also require legal orientation programs for all detained noncitizens at immigration facilities, and ensure fairness and an equal playing field between respondents and government lawyers by guaranteeing the right to review documents that the Department of Homeland Security plans to use in removal proceedings.

The FAIR Proceedings Act would contribute to streamlining court processes and reducing the immigration court backlog, and require a government report on access to legal counsel to enable the federal government to better understand the ongoing problems within the immigration court system caused by unequitable access to counsel.

“The American Immigration Lawyers Association applauds Congressman McEachin and Congresswoman Lofgren for championing fairness in America’s immigration courts by introducing the FAIR Proceedings Act,” Greg Chen, Senior Director of Government Relations for AILA, said in the press release. “It is astounding that in this day and age, the immigration courts still do not guarantee legal representation for the most vulnerable people — children, asylum seekers, and those who are too poor to afford an attorney and who face deportation. This bill is a win-win for everyone – it will guarantee due process rights for vulnerable people and greatly improve the operation and efficiency of the courts.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.