Salazar offers bipartisan, bicameral bill to support unaccompanied alien children in court

To improve the adjudication of immigration cases involving unaccompanied alien children, U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to establish the Children’s Court.

“Children are often the greatest victims of our broken immigration system,” Rep. Salazar said on Tuesday. “We must do better to meet children’s needs while streamlining immigration court proceedings and making our courts more efficient.”

The Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023, H.R. 6145/S. 3178, aims to tackle the nation’s immigration court backlog and improve due process rights for unaccompanied migrant children, according to a bill summary provided by the congresswoman’s staff.

Sen. Salazar on Nov. 1 signed on as the lead original cosponsor of H.R. 6145, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) to establish a Children’s Court within the Executive Office for Immigration Review focused on the adjudication of unaccompanied children’s removal proceedings. U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the same day offered the identical S. 3178 in their chamber.

“I’m proud to co-lead the Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act to improve outcomes for children, families, and the American people in our backlogged immigration courts,” said Rep. Salazar. “And most importantly, keep them safe.”

Under the bill, the Children’s Court would aggregate similar cases; streamline proceedings involving children who have claims awaiting adjudication; reduce redundancies across government agencies; render children’s hearings more orderly and resource-efficient; and work to relieve strain on the immigration court system, according to the summary. 

Specifically, the bill would require children’s immigration court judges to receive special training on child trafficking, developmental and trauma-informed practice, and docket management tools, the summary says.

Additionally, the bill would require that the Children’s Court utilize child-appropriate procedures to help ensure that children comprehend the proceedings, are treated appropriately for their developmental stage, and have sufficient time to secure counsel, states the summary.

And legal services organizations would be required to coordinate with the court to help children access legal screening and immigration proceedings at the same time and place to ensure that children obtain counsel faster and more efficiently.

The measure has garnered support from 41 organizations, including World Relief, the National Immigration Forum, the Church World Service, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Bar Association, and the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network.