U.S. to start legal aid program for some
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[June 07, 2014]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
Department of Justice said on Friday it will help provide lawyers for
the growing number of children coming to the United States illegally,
without parents or relatives accompanying them.
The new program, established in conjunction with the agency that
administers the AmeriCorps volunteer program, will seek out around
100 lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services to the
children, the department said.
"We're taking a historic step to strengthen our justice system and
protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society,”
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Earlier this week President Barack Obama described the growing
numbers of children as an "urgent humanitarian situation," and put
the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of coordinating
humanitarian relief for them, including housing, care, medical
treatment and transportation. The Obama administration estimates
that about 60,000 "unaccompanied minors" - children under 18 - will
enter the United States illegally this year. It projects that number
to grow to nearly 130,000 next year.
As recently as 2011, the number was only some 6,000.
Senior Obama adviser John Podesta described it as a "heart-breaking
situation" at a Friday breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science
Monitor, and said it was another reason comprehensive immigration
reform was needed.
The Senate last year passed a wide-ranging immigration bill with
bipartisan backing. It has languished in the House of
Representatives, where Republicans are deeply divided on the issue
and stress the need for tougher border controls before advancing
broader legislative changes.
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The minors flooding over the border are often teenagers leaving
behind poverty or violence in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and
Mexico. They are sometimes seeking to reunite with a parent who is
already in the United States, also without documentation.
The children often end up before immigration courts without legal
representation and with little knowledge of English or the U.S.
(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha and Richard Cowan; Editing by Tom
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