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American Bar Association Adopts Policy In Defense of 14th Amendment Citizenship Clause

Also Recommends Legal Protections for Immigrant Parents, Children Affected by Immigration Enforcement, and Child Victims of Sex and Labor Trafficking

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 11, 2011 — The U.S. Congress, states and local jurisdictions should reject attempts to change the 14th Amendment citizenship clause, according to a resolution adopted Tuesday by the American Bar Association at its Annual Meeting in Toronto. The association also adopted policy urging protections for both citizen and noncitizen children whose parents are subject to immigration detention or deportation, as well as for both citizen and noncitizen child victims of trafficking.

A year of public hearings held by the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities culminated in the resolution (303), a response to legislation introduced at the local and federal level to limit birthright citizenship.

The ABA also adopted a series of policies (103B-D) to improve circumstances for both citizen children, and noncitizen children, whose immigrant parents are detained by Department of Homeland Security or removed from the country, including the provision of legal information and support for such parents. Another policy urges state legislatures to enact laws to more effectively aid all minors who are victims of any form of human trafficking (103A). These resolutions were brought by the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk.

103A: Urges Congress, and state and local governments, to adopt policy aiding minors who are victims of human trafficking and to improve laws so these children are properly identified, treated solely as victims and promptly provided with appropriate services. For noncitizen child victims, the resolution calls for better data, on both numbers and immigration relief provided, as well as documentation of the support such children receive from state/local child welfare systems.

103B: Urges Congress to enact legislation and DHS to modify immigration laws to better protect minors impacted by immigration enforcement actions against their parents. This resolution calls for help to ensure the location of parents and their children in such situations is always known, and for state and local child welfare agencies to make reasonable efforts to help reunify families affected by immigration enforcement. This resolution also urges DHS to collect data on the number of U.S. citizen children impacted by the detention or deportation of their primary caregiver and the resulting cost to state/local child welfare agencies.

103C: Urges DHS to revise its policies with respect to detained parents, legal guardians and primary caregivers of children, to better aid individuals of these groups when there are state court actions related to their children. This support should include access to an attorney who can help them understand legal issues related to their children, referral to an attorney who can represent their interests in state court custody-related cases and opportunities for detained parents to maintain meaningful participation in those cases.

103D: Urges federal and state governments to enact legislation to better protect noncitizen children apprehended by immigration authorities, or placed in foster care, by screening these children for potential grounds for immigration relief, including crime victimization or child maltreatment. If such children are sent to their home country, child welfare agencies should ensure both child safety and return to a stable family environment.  Governments are also called upon to ensure that citizen children are not denied access to birth certificates or other vital records simply because they have an undocumented immigrant parent.

A full description of action by the 566-member House of Delegates, the ABA’s policy-making body, can be found here.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.  As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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Distribution channels: Law


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