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Immigration Reform News: Senate Panel Blocks Legal Funding for Immigrant Children

First Posted: Jun 12, 2015 01:43 PM EDT
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Photo : John Moore/Getty Images

President Obama's multi-million dollar request to grant legal aid to undocumented children who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border was shut down by a Republican-controlled Senate panel on Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the author of a spending bill funding the Justice Department, is the main opponent responsible for blocking Obama's request for $50 million for legal funding for unaccompanied immigrant children who came to the United States from Central America, reports The Associated Press.

Last summer, the U.S. saw an influx of children migrating to the U.S. as they were fleeing gangs and violence in countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Under federal law, immigrant children can seek legal status by making a request for asylum due to fear of returning home to face gang violence. However, without legal representation, it is likely that these children will be sent back to their home countries.

The influx of over 68,500 unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. in 2014 created chaos in the immigration court system. Federal reports released earlier this year show that the backlog in the already overburdened federal immigration courts increased by 68 percent since 2014, bringing the number of pending cases to an all-time high of 445,706 in April, reports The Los Angeles Times. That number now hovers at more than 450,000, according to Fox News Latino.

Following the surge, officials choose to give the unaccompanied children's cases priority in the courts. However, their move to the front of the line has created more frenzy. As a result, thousands of cases involving undocumented immigrants seeking either political asylum or refugee status have been placed on the back burner, and are not scheduled to be heard until as late as 2019.

"There's no place (in the immigration system) that has any give anymore," said Vanessa Allyn, the Human Rights First managing attorney for refugee representation, to Fox News Latino. "It's a real big hardship for the people who are waiting" for decisions, for green cards, for visas and work permits. They don't have any hope. They don't know when it will happen, or if it will happen."

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