For Child Refugees, Jeffries Bill Provides Needed Defense

Washington – The First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, today endorsed the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act of 2014, legislation sponsored by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to ensure that child migrants are appointed legal counsel in removal proceedings.

“Children fleeing brutal violence come to America seeking protection and opportunity – instead, they find detention and a legal labyrinth that would overwhelm most adults,” said Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley.

Escalating violence and instability in Central America has prompted an increased flow into the United States of children seeking safe haven. Children and families are often forced to make the difficult decision of embarking on the dangerous journey to avoid near certain death in their home countries. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that, since October 1, 2013, more than 47,000 migrant children have entered the U.S. alone.

But upon arrival in the United States, those children – some as young as two years old – face detention and the same complex deportation processes applied to adults. Congressman Jeffries’ proposal would ensure that all child migrants facing immigration enforcement actions would be represented by attorneys.

“Child refugees need defense, not additional trauma,” said Lesley. “And Congressman Jeffries’ bill delivers.”

This legislation comes on the heels of an announcement by the White House that the Obama Administration plans to augment resources for immigration enforcement, with the intent of accelerating deportations of immigrants from Central America, including families and child refugees.

“An express ticket back to extreme danger is the wrong solution for these vulnerable children,” said Lesley.

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Children of Immigrants Press Release

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