The Department of Justice announced on Friday that it will help to provide lawyers for the increasing number of immigrant children arriving illegally in the United States without their parents or other relatives accompanying them. The new program, which was created in collaboration with the agency that administers the AmeriCorp volunteer program, intends to seek out around 100 paralegals and lawyers to offer the children legal services, according to the department.
“We’re taking a historic step to strengthen our justice system and protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Eric Holder, the attorney general, in a statement. Last week President Obama noted that the increasing numbers of unaccompanied immigrant children was an “urgent humanitarian situation” and selected the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate humanitarian relief, including care, transportation, housing and medical treatment.
The Obama administration says that around 60,000 unaccompanied children will come to the US illegally in the next year; this number was as low as 6,000 just three years ago. John Podesta, a senior adviser to Obama, called it a “heartbreaking situation” and another illustration of the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
A wide-ranging immigration bill was passed by the Senate last year with bipartisan backing; however, it has stalled in the House of Representatives, with Republicans being divided over the issue and stressing the need for tougher border controls before any legislative changes are made.