Originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times
Re: "Young, alone and in court," Editorial, March 14
The circumstances facing unaccompanied immigrant children seeking refuge in the United States are often terrible. Many of these vulnerable children who may qualify to stay are deported.
According to the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, about 145 unaccompanied minors are released each month from federal child detention centers. Once released, they are unlikely to have access to legal representation or advocates.
Legislation containing the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, which I authored (and President Bush signed) ensured appropriate legal counsel, child advocates and humanitarian treatment for immigrant children without a parent or guardian. This program has been reauthorized through 2017.
In the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill, I included an amendment to establish basic standards for children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, including the provision of nutrition, clothing and shoes, personal hygiene and sanitary products, and mental health and emergency care services. The bill also required counsel for unaccompanied immigrant children at government expense, and it permitted the removal of unaccompanied immigrant children only during daylight hours.
The House must act on immigration reform. No matter your view on immigration, we should all agree that protecting unaccompanied immigrant children is a humanitarian issue that can be addressed with proper counsel and some compassion.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein