Seeking refuge in the United States: A new law designed to help children

Those seeking refuge in the United States may benefit from a recently proposed law designed to assist the young and vulnerable.

The Department of State notes that the United States "is proud of its history of welcoming immigrants and refugees." The agency defines a refugee as:

[S]omeone who has fled from his or her home country and cannot return because he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Critics of this system claim it is failing those who arguably need it most: children and other vulnerable individuals. In an attempt to fill this void, political leaders from throughout the country have recently proposed a law that would provide protections to these applicants.

How the system works

Refugees that enter the United States must generally register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The refugee case is then processed by a Resettlement Support Center (RSC). This agency can then determine if the individual qualifies for protection and can remain in the United States. If not, the individual will be deported, returned to the country he or she fled.

In many cases, the determination is made after the RSC reviews biographic information and the Department of State along with the Department of Homeland Security conduct an enhanced security screening. If approved, a health screening follows. The health screening is used to determine if any contagious diseases are present. Applicants with certain diseases, like tuberculosis, are not allowed to enter the United States.

More on the proposal

A recent press release from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a leader in the proposal, notes that the proposed law would require the government to appoint legal representation for children and vulnerable individuals. Vulnerable individuals are defined by the law to include those with disabilities and victims of abuse, torture or violence. The law also requires the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress the number of individuals that receive legal representation under this law.

The release further states that data supports the need for this law. Without representation, children seeking asylum are deported five times more often than those who have legal counsel.

Importance of legal counsel

The debate surrounding this proposal highlights the need for legal counsel for those seeking refuge within the United States. Whether defending against a deportation proceeding, detention hearing, immigration appeal or applying for a visa, an experienced immigration attorney can guide you through the process, advocating for your legal rights and working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.