It was with a heavy heart that I had to miss the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Lobby Day this year. Having attended for two years in a row, I know the impact my colleagues at AILA have when meeting with representatives and senators—and how fulfilling the day can be to all the participants.
With the new administration has come new enforcement policies that have captured the attention of the world. But while Americans with foreign ties were grappling to understand the hastily put together travel ban and its successor, the problem of unaccompanied minors, or unaccompanied alien children (UAC) as referred to by Immigration, continues to grow. Astonishing as it is, accompanied minors are severely affected and are being separated from their families—and apparently with intent by the government.
The New Jersey Chapter of AILA brought these concerns and others to the sympathetic ears of Representative Chris Smith of the state’s 4th Congressional district. Rep. Smith asked AILA members to furnish him with facts and statistics concerning:
- Sponsors of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) being put in proceedings or called in for interviews with ICE, which have led to or may lead to Notices to Appear.
- Cases in which attorneys are reluctant to proceed for fear that pursuing a case will subject the sponsor or guardian of a UAC to being put in proceedings.
- Cases in which a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJS) guardian in family court has been put in proceedings as a result of going forward with either the family court process or an I-360.
We are heartened by the receptiveness of Rep. Smith and his willingness to dive deeper into immigration policy. We can only hope that, as a veteran member of Congress, Rep. Smith will be able to shape the debate beyond the headlines and bring the plight of the people—who are caught between a rock and a hard place—to the forefront.