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LAWG and Partners Urge DHS to Ensure Access to Counsel for Vulnerable Migrants and Refugees

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The Latin America Working Group joined over 70 immigrants’ rights, faith-based, civil rights, human rights, survivors’ rights, and legal service provider groups in signing a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging them to consider taking critical steps to protect the rights of migrants and refugees, particularly access to legal counsel.

As the letter states, “we remain concerned that Central American refugees who are fleeing violence and persecution in the northern Triangle are often unable to access legal counsel, setting them up to fail at proving their complex legal cases.”

The letter requests that Secretary Johnson and Deputy Secretary Mayorkas do the following:

  • Review provisions of the “Fair Day in Court for Kids” legislation introduced by Senators Reid, Durbin, Murray, Leahy, Menendez, Franken, and Hirono that can be pursued without new legislation;
  • Stop conducting home raids and arrests of Central America immigrant families who fled violence;
  • Review and revise the U.S. screening process for refugees, children, and other vulnerable migrant populations arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border;
  • Stop using fast-track removal procedures against Central Americans;
  • Stop the use of detention against families;
  • Create DHS processing centers instead of continuing the failed policy of family detention;
  • Ensure that individuals arriving at the U.S. border seeking protection have access to legal counsel and legal information and be afforded a fair process for seeking asylum;
  • Support appropriate protections for unaccompanied minors by DHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR);
  • Ensure due process is afforded to all respondents;
  • Support Temporary Protected Status (TPS), humanitarian parole and other protective programs for individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

For full details, see the complete letter text here.