Kolko & Associates, P.C. applauds the Colorado Bar Association for its leadership and commitment to due process for unaccompanied children in Immigration Removal Proceedings.

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On December 15, 2014, in a completely unprecedented move, the Colorado Bar Association’s (CBA) Executive Committee met and unanimously voted to provide matching funds of up to $50,000 in order to fund the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) Children’s Program (http://www.rmian.org/childrens-program/) and to provide legal services to Unaccompanied Children in Immigration Removal Proceedings.

CBA President Charles F. Garcia highlights the CBA’s action in his article, “Children on the Run,” published in the February 2015 edition of the Colorado Lawyer, and addresses the due process crisis that we are currently experiencing in our Immigration Courts with respect to recently arrived children from Central America. Most notably, Mr. Garcia highlights the fact that these children, many under the age of 10 and some as young as 3 or 4 years old, have absolutely no right to appointed legal counsel or a guardian ad litem regardless of their age.

"Children on the Run," can be accessed here: (http://www.cobar.org/tcl/tcl_articles.cfm?articleid=8794).

Most of us are aware of the so-called “surge” of unaccompanied children seeking refuge at the southern border of the United States during the summer of 2014. Despite the media spin of the reasons for this surge, most of these children are fleeing very real threats against their lives in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Many of these children have suffered brutal violence, rape, threats against their lives and witnessed the murders of close family members by the gangs in their home countries. Yet, our government is pushing them through proceedings without meaningful access to legal counsel and an unprecedented rate.

In response to this so-called “surge”, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered U.S. Immigration Courts to prioritize the cases of children who have entered the United States since the spring of 2014. This means that these unaccompanied children are being rushed through the immigration deportation process and their applications for asylum protection (and other immigration relief) in the United States.

These children are alone without an adult to advocate for them. And, in the majority of cases they are not represented by legal counsel. Although they are entitled to a lawyer, the U.S. government does not provide funding for their attorneys. What you have is children, some as young as 3 and 4 year olds, alone in deportation court representing themselves in front of the Immigration Judge and forced to argue against skilled DHS trial lawyers who are pushing for their deportation.

Meaningful legal counsel for these children is essential. Recent data evaluating unaccompanied children in removal proceedings in the United States shows if an attorney was present, almost half of the children were allowed to stay in the United States. However, where there was no attorney, nine out of ten children were deported.

At the Immigration Court in Denver Colorado, since August of 2014, the unaccompanied children’s docket has grown 500%. In Colorado RMIAN provides self-help and direct legal services to children in removal proceedings. However, with only one and a half attorneys on staff, it simply cannot meet the need of these unrepresented children.

In recognition of this crisis, the CBA has agreed to match up to $50,000 in order to fund two (2) – three (3) additional RMIAN attorneys dedicated to providing legal representation to these unaccompanied children. The goal is to raise at least $50,000 in order to take full advantage of the CBA’s pledge to match $50,000.

Donations can be made sent to: RMIAN (CBA Matching) 3849, W. 72nd Avenue, Suite 211, Westminster, CO 80030. Donationas can also be made on-line at: https://npo.justgive.org/nonprofits/donate.jsp?ein=84-1565542

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Kolko & Associates is a full service immigration and naturalization law firm providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, the United States, and the World. Our professional staff speaks English, Spanish, Korean, German, and Slovak, and we can arrange for translators in any other language.