In response to the recent and growing flood of undocumented children arriving in the United States without a parent or guardian, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) on Monday introduced the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act of 2014 (VIVA), a new bill that will provide for unaccompanied minors legal representation.
Joining Jeffries at the press conference where he announced the legislation were the bill's co-authors Karen Bass (CA-37), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Judy Chu (CA-27).
Each month, with the help of smugglers, thousands of immigrant children are fleeing their homelands in Central and South America and crossing the southern U.S. border illegally in the hope of finding a better life.
Many are fleeing drug warlords; others are sent by relatives who are seeking to reunite the children with their parents or other relatives. And they cross the border without papers because there are virtually no legal ways for them to immigrate.
The number of children making these journeys by themselves has doubled each year since 2010. And the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated that an estimated 90,000 unaccompanied children will attempt to enter the country by the end of this year.
"There is a growing humanitarian crisis at the border that worsens exponentially by the day, and it requires a serious response," said Jeffries.
The VIVA legislation aims to provide not only legal representation to unaccompanied minors, but also the mentally disabled during immigration proceedings.
"Some of the children who have come to this country may not have a valid legal basis to remain, but some will," said Jeffries. "Yet, it is virtually impossible for a child to assert a valid claim under immigration law in the absence of legal representation."