CILA Highlights ABA Policy Efforts  

CILA is a project of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Immigration (COI). The Commission on Immigration directs the Association’s efforts to ensure fair treatment and full due process rights for immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees within the United States. CILA, as a part of the COI, works to support advocates in the field including attorneys, legal staff, and social services staff as well as pro bono attorneys helping immigrant children. CILA builds capacity for those working to advance the rights of children seeking protection by providing four key services: trainings, technical assistance, resource development, and collaboration opportunities 

With many proposed policy changes pending, CILA highlights several ABA policy efforts related to children’s immigration law: 

  • Protect Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act: Representative Jimmy Gomez introduced the House bill H.R.4285, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced the Senate bill S.1885. ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross provided a letter in support of the introduction and re-introduction of the Act. 
    • The ABA has previously urged for protection for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) youth when passing a policy resolution in 2021. Learn more about this effort in CILA’s blog post, an ABA Journal article, an article in the Hill, as well as highlighted information about the impact of the policy change in the CILA 2022 Annual Report
    • The End SIJS Backlog Coalition recently issued a report providing more detail on youth affected by the SIJS Backlog. In the report, “False Hopes: Over 100,000 Immigrant Youth Trapped in the SIJS Backlog,” they elaborate that the Protect Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act will “exempt thousands of SIJS youth-from the employment-based visa caps, ensuring SIJS youth can achieve the permanency in the United States that Congress intended.” Read CILA’s blog post on this issue and the End SIJS Backlog Coalition’s new report. 
  • Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023: Senator Michael Bennet amongst others introduced the Senate bill S.3178. The bill creates specialized dockets for unaccompanied children’s cases in immigration court and requires additional training for judges and DHS attorneys involved. Additionally, it would require more coordination with legal service providers to increase representation of unaccompanied children. The ABA endorsed the bill, and this ABA article, “The ABA Endorses Bipartisan Legislation for Children’s Immigration Docket,” provides more detail. The article quotes ABA President Mary Smith who said, “Navigating the immigration court system can be challenging, but even more so for unaccompanied children. The American Bar Association supports this effort to ensure that vulnerable children have their cases adjudicated fairly, in an environment that is sensitive to their special needs, while enhancing the efficiency of immigration courts.” 
  • Appellate Procedures and Decisional Finality in Immigration Proceedings; Administrative Closure: The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) issued this proposed rule on September 8, 2023. The comment period closed on November 7, 2023. The purpose of the rule is “to restore longstanding procedures, including administrative closure, and to clarify and codify other established practices.” The ABA submitted a comment on the proposed rule to provide recommendations. 
  • Unaccompanied Children Program Foundational Rule: The Department of Health and Human Services and Administration for Children and Families published the “Unaccompanied Children Program Foundational Rule” proposed rule on October 4, 2023. Comments closed on December 4, 2023. The rule proposes to “adopt and replace regulations relating to the key aspects of the placement, care, and services provided to unaccompanied children referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), pursuant to ORR’s responsibilities for coordinating and implementing the care and placement of unaccompanied children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status.” Due to the nature of ORR’s role, this rule is expansive and covers many issues. The ABA submitted a comment related to the proposed rule.  

The CILA team covered these policy issues and more during CILA’s annual “Children’s Immigration Law: 2023 Roundup training held this month. We encourage you to watch the recording to learn more about these policy updates and other major immigration changes affecting unaccompanied children in 2023. Additionally, to learn more about ABA policy efforts, read the COI’s webpage on “Immigration Law and Policies.”  

To learn more about issues affecting immigrant children at the border, read the “ABA CILA Fact Sheet: Unaccompanied Children at the Border.” There are thousands of unaccompanied children who need legal representation and an advocate to stand by their side to help them with their case. If you are interested in getting involved, view available pro bono opportunities on CILA’s platform, Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation, and review CILA’s Get Involved webpage. CILA has resources and trainings to support pro bono attorneys, such as the CILA Pro Bono Guide: Working with Children and Youth in Immigration Cases and 101 recorded trainings. 

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