SPOTLIGHT: Unaccompanied Minors Representing Themselves Alone at Court and How K.I.N.D. is Helping

By: Tessa Haefcke

Since the commencement of the current administration’s zero tolerance policy, there have been widespread reports of children having to navigate the immigration process alone. Countless of headlines such as, “Immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone,[1]” “Immigrant children: Kids appear in deportation court alone[2]” and “Trump administration admits migrant children as young as 3 appearing in court alone for their own deportation proceedings,[3]” have appeared throughout social media, sparking outrage. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Enforcement Statistics, since October 2018 there have been approximately 36,000 unaccompanied alien children apprehended at the border.[4] Many of these children arriving do not have access to legal resources, forcing them, some as young as three years old, to plead their own cases in court. To address this problem, organizations such as KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), are working to provide them with the legal resources needed to make their cases and gain admission to the United States.

In October 2008, Angelina Jolie and Microsoft founded KIND to address the lack of legal services for unaccompanied minors to the United States. KIND has created a network of pro bono attorneys, paralegals and law students to represent these children. KIND has partnered with over 600 corporations, law firms, law schools and bar associations to provide legal protection to alien children detained at the border. KIND specifically focuses on children who have been persecuted in their home countries, trafficked to the U.S., abused, abandoned and neglected. The organization’s mission is to ensure proper representation of minors in immigration court to protect and uphold their right to due process and fundamental fairness.

Besides providing free legal services to unaccompanied minors held at the border, KIND also has developed international programs such as Child Migrant Return & Reintegration Project (CMRRP). This program was created to keep children who were ordered to or who voluntarily returned to their home country, safe and cared for throughout the return process. KIND has helped expand this project to Guatemala and Honduras, helping over 300 children reintegrate into their home country. The CMRRP project makes sure that the children arrive home to their communities safely, that the children are reunited with their families, and that they have resources for mental, medical, and counseling services. KIND sees this project as a framework for governments and non-profit organizations to follow to develop a better and sustainable integration process for returning children.

KIND is working to create fair and equal case processing procedures through their provision of pro bono legal resources and international programs for children seeking refuge in the U.S. The goal of the organization is to create a world in which a child’s rights and well-being are protected throughout the search for a safe haven.

Link to KIND pamphlets:

https://supportkind.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/KIND-Fact-Sheet_April-2019v2.pdf

https://supportkind.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/KIND-cartoon-flyer_-January-2018.pdf

[1]. Jewett, C., & Luthra, S. (2018, July 02). Immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone. The Texas Tribune.

[2] Jewett, C., & Luthra, S. (2018, July 02). Immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone. USA Today.

[3] Buncombe, A. (2018, June 29). Trump administration admits migrant children as young as 3 appearing in court alone for their own deportation proceedings. Independent.

[4] Southwest Border Migration FY 2019. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Department of Homeland Security. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration

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