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The United States need immigration reform now!

Marian Wright Edelman | 12/2/2013, 2:34 a.m.
Jaime Gordillo Villa, age 9, was born in the United States and is a good student who has gotten awards ...
Marian Wright Edelman

Second, our immigration system must uphold children’s basic human rights and ensure access to critical public services, programs, and economic supports for children and their families. Protecting a child’s human rights should include ensuring children receive legal representation before all immigration authorities and, for all unaccompanied children, the appointment of an independent child advocate from the moment of detention throughout the course of any immigration or other related court proceedings.

Third, we need to ensure enforcement efforts have appropriate protections for children. In all enforcement actions, including those along the border, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration and children must be given the benefit of the doubt during any investigation or detention. There should be appropriate and accountable training policies for interacting with and screening children that reflect a humanitarian and protection-oriented approach, prohibit the use of force, and create reasonable and safe conditions for children.

Finally, we must keep families together. All policies regarding admissibility, enforcement, detention, and deportation of children and their parents must consider the best interests of children, including enabling immigration judges to exercise discretion in admission and removal decisions based on the hardship to U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children. The immigration system must be updated by resolving current backlogs and ensuring family-based immigration channels are adequate for future migration without lengthy family separation.

As the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society, every child within our borders should have access to the services and resources they need to survive, grow and thrive. As our nation’s leaders, hopefully, move forward with the important task of reforming federal immigration laws, I hope they will take into account the unique needs of children. Please urge your member in the House of Representatives to take action on immigration reform that promotes child well-being by ensuring families stay together and gives all children the opportunity to grow and thrive. The Senate has acted. The House must vote – now.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission is Leave No Child Behind. For more information go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.