On November 1, 2023, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with Representatives Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Maria Salazar (R-FL), introduced legislation addressing weaknesses in our immigration system’s treatment of children and unprecedented backlogs in the courts. The Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023 aims to tackle some of the most harrowing challenges facing children in our immigration courts.
The bill establishes separate specialized dockets for the adjudication of unaccompanied children’s cases in immigration court. Judges hearing cases on the specialized dockets must have experience working with children and utilizing child-appropriate court procedures.
The bill requires that the judges receive additional training on child-sensitive questioning techniques, developmental and trauma-informed practices, methods for explaining the complicated proceedings to children, and the concept of best interests of the child. The bill would also require similar training for a dedicated cohort of Department of Homeland Security lawyers handling children’s cases. The purpose of this training is to not only to strengthen due process protections for unaccompanied children, but also to help lessen the backlog of pending cases by promoting more efficient courtroom procedures.