House bill to provide immigrant minors with lawyers

US flagDemocratic lawmakers announced new legislation on Monday to provide lawyers to the thousands of unaccompanied immigrant minors pouring across the border into the United States, stating that forcing youngsters to have to face deportation proceedings without legal representation is against fundamental American values.

“It is a fantasy to believe that they have a fair shot in immigration proceedings without counsel,” said New York representative Hakeem Jeffries.  Jeffries and other Democrats in the House of Representatives claim that between 40% and 50% of the undocumented immigrant minors involved would have a legitimate claim to stay in the country under current laws, citing studies from a number of different agencies including the United Nations.

They also claim that the new bill could save up to $2 billion per annum, as timely immigration proceedings would remove the necessity to house thousands of immigrant minors for months on end.  From October 2013 to June 15th this year, a total of 52,000 unaccompanied youngsters arrived at the US/Mexico border, the Obama administration says.  The great majority are fleeing drug and gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

There was a similar provision to give minors legal counsel included in a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year; however, this bill has stalled in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.  There is no indication at this stage that the new bill will have any greater chance of success.