New House bill suggests representation for vulnerable voices
This year, thousands of unaccompanied minors will flee their home countries and come to the United States. Among other reasons, these children immigrate to escape from abuse, gang violence, and sex trafficking, and their flight to the US marks the start of a battle for representation and documentation. Too often, the US responds to unaccompanied minors by sending them back to their home countries. Immigration detention rates continue to rise, and removal of immigrants is happening at a quicker pace than ever.
But a new bill, proposed by Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Karen Bass (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Judy Chu (D-CA), might help unaccompanied minors understand their options before appearing in Immigration Court. The bill, called “The Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act of 2014” (VIVA), seeks to provide legal counsel for immigrants who are children or have a mental disability.
Providing adequate legal counsel to vulnerable populations is not only just––it’s also economically smart. Good legal counsel prepares immigrants for immigration court by explaining what their options are. And pointing immigrants in the right legal direction means less time in court––and significantly less time in detention centers––which results in lower court fees.
In the case of VIVA, the proposed recipients of legal aid are those with the most to gain. Unaccompanied minors and immigrants with mental disabilities may have several immigration options available to them––but without legal guidance, there is no way for them to know. Additionally, deporting vulnerable immigrants ignores the social, economic, and political structures which pressured them to leave their country and continue to endanger them. ILG applauds the introduction of this bill, and encourages United States Representatives, especially Oregon’s Congressional Representatives to support vulnerable voices by providing them with legal counsel and a fair day in court.
Read the full text of the VIVA bill here.