Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 4, 2014

American Bar Association president on surge of unaccompanied alien minors

James R. Silkenat, president, American Bar Association

The American Bar Association (ABA) last week submitted a statement to the House Judiciary Committee addressing the conditions faced by a growing number of children who have been apprehended crossing the border into south Texas and seeking assurances the minors receive basic legal services, counsel, and other protection.

It is critical that legal service providers have time to provide basic legal information and to screen children before they are reunified with qualified sponsors. Otherwise, children who are at a heightened risk if returned to their countries and who may qualify for legal relief may never have the opportunity to access critically needed legal services. The ABA recommends that all children receive a live, in-person legal rights presentation and an individual, child-friendly screening by a qualified legal advocate before being reunified with approved sponsors.

“Fundamental principles of fairness and due process demand that these vulnerable children receive legal representation and guardians to represent their interests throughout the immigration process,” James R. Silkenat, president, ABA, said in his statement. “While pro bono representation should be encouraged and utilized to the maximum extent possible, it cannot meet the need in all cases, particularly for those who are detained in remote border areas. Therefore, the ABA strongly recommends that government-appointed counsel be provided for children who are not otherwise able to obtain legal representation.”

Silkenat said the rapid increase in unaccompanied children entering the U.S. presents many difficult challenges. “However, in the rush to address the current crisis, the United States cannot abandon the principles of fairness and due process that make this country a beacon of light and hope for those suffering persecution around the world,” he said. “Any short or long-term solutions designed to address the influx of children must bear this ideal firmly in mind.”

Source: American Bar Association