Although he may be busy on the presidential campaign trail, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is still working his other job as U.S. senator. The independent Vermont senator announced his support to guarantee undocumented immigrant children their right to due process.

Right to Legal Counsel

Sanders announced his co-sponsor status on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's, D-Nevada, legislation, titled "The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act," which mandates the federal government to appoint counsel to unaccompanied immigrant children and other vulnerable individuals -- such as victims of abuse, torture and violence.

"Our immigration policies must be consistent with our historical commitment to provide protection and due process to those fleeing violence and persecution," said Sanders in a statement on Feb. 13. "We must stand up for the rights of the powerless and extend proper legal protection to children and other vulnerable immigrants. We will not tolerate calls to send back unaccompanied children and victims of crime and domestic violence to the countries they have fled."

Echoing Reid's remarks when he introduced the bill on Feb. 11, Sanders acknowledged that 83 deportees from Central America were later found murdered in their respective native countries.

"Given the life-and-death consequences of deportation to this region, we must ensure that we are not putting asylum-seeking women and children in harm's way. We can do this by making sure that these desperate women and children have a lawyer. The humanitarian crisis at our doorstep demands that we, as Americans, affirm our fundamental values of protection and due process," said Reid, based on his prepared Senate floor remarks on Feb. 11.

Many undocumented women with children, or sometimes just the children on their own, proceed to immigration court hearings without legal counsel. According to a statement from Sanders' office, a majority of the recently arrived unaccompanied immigrant children are eligible for legal protection, which would allow them to lawfully stay in the U.S. but at least 9 in 10 children who lack legal counsel are given deportation orders.

"Our guiding principle in terms of immigration reform must be to unite families, not divide them up," Sanders added in his statement.

Temporary Protection Status

Sanders' support of "The Fair Day in Court for Kids Act" is his latest move for the immigrant community. Last month, he joined nearly two dozen senators calling for President Barack Obama to stop further deportation raids conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The 22 senators agreed they have concerns that immigrants, with valid protection claims to life-threatening violence, are being apprehended and ordered with deportation. The senators urged the president to designate El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for temporary protected status.

Last September, Sanders introduced the "Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2015," which would ban private prisons and eliminate bed quotas of immigrants held in detention. Sanders' bill would call for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency within DHS, to improve monitoring and inspections of detention facilities through either the Homeland Security secretary or an independent and third party auditor. The final provision of the law would be the termination of family detention, unless an individual poses a risk to the community.


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