Senate Bill Introduced to Provide Access to Counsel for Vulnerable Foreign Nationals

On February 11, 2016, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a bill which provides access to legal representation for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable persons.  The bill was co-sponsored by 8 other Democrat Senators.

The bill, S.2540 entitled Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016, provides that the Attorney General may appoint attorneys at government expense to represent aliens in immigration proceedings and requires that appointed attorneys are to be given copies of case relevant DHS documents.  The bill specifically provides that immigration court proceedings cannot go forward  until the alien’s attorney has both received the relevant documents and has had time to review them.  The bill mandates the appointment of attorneys at government expense for unaccompanied alien minors and vulnerable populations such as aliens with disabilities, or those who are the victims of abuse, or violence, or other have circumstances where appointment of counsel is needed to assure a fair hearing.

In addition, the bill mandates that all aliens who are detained in facilities supervised by ICE or the Border Patrol be provided access to attorneys no matter where such facilities are located, and detained persons be provided with information about legal services programs which may apply to them.

The chances for passage of the bill are limited in a 2016 presidential election year.