Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer was joined by eight Congressional colleagues at the Crystal City Immigration Court in Arlington to witness first hand the immigration proceedings involving children, many separated from their parents and lacking legal counsel. Present with Beyer were Congressional Hispanic Caucus chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA). Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Rep. Jimmy Gomes (D-CA) and Rep. Linda Chavez (D-CA).
Beyer said, ““We came to do due diligence to see what’s happening to the 12,000 children who have been separated from their families. We witnessed a best-case scenario with a sympathetic judge and children with lawyers, but we are very aware that this is not happening all around the country. Children with lawyers get positive outcomes at these immigration proceedings over 90 percent of the time, and those without receive positive outcomes less than 60 percent of the time. Unfortunately many can not afford the large fees to fight a lengthy court battle. A local immigration attorney who argues cases at the court we went to said she had seen a child asked to provide their own defense who was only seven or eight years old. Kids that young obviously don’t know how to make an asylum case all by themselves.”
Beyer followed up yesterday’s effort with a letter to Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking that he expand the investigation into the reports of neglect, and both physical and sexual abuse at shelters housing migrant children. Beyer urged Levinson to review how the federal government maintains and evaluates contracts with the facilities after concerns of abuse were raised. Further, Beyer asked the IG to investigate communication and agency guidance regarding Congressional and press access to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters and affiliated facilities.