The bill would ease the path to permanent residence for unaccompanied alien children (UACs) by opening up access to special immigrant juvenile status for any UAC who cannot make a persuasive case for asylum who is deemed to be a dependent of the state as a result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment; would entitle all UACs to legal counsel (likely through a government contractor’s search for competent, pro bono attorneys) and an independent child advocate to coordinate his/her sponsorship and legal needs. (In recent years, approximately 8,000 UACs have been apprehended by immigration officials each year and then they are transferred into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR], which is under the aegis of the Department of Health and Human Services, not DHS; herein lies a primary concern with this process: for some illegal entrants under 18, DHS is not responsible for enforcing immigration law. ORR officials admit that the Notices to Appear they give to a UAC’s sponsor when they leave with the minor carry little weight and are seldom enforced, resulting in, perhaps, as much as a 65 percent no-show rate in immigration court [official numbers are unavailable as UACs are not currently categorized separately for tracking and reporting]. Subsequently, a good number of those who do not show up in court just ebb back into the waves of illegal immigrants flooding our country during protracted removal proceedings.)
A bill to provide for the protection of unaccompanied alien children, and for other purposes.