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April 01, 2019

Statement of ABA President Bob Carlson Re: DHS proposal on immigrant children

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2019 – The American Bar Association strongly opposes the proposal by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to change the nation’s immigration laws to allow for expedited deportation of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum and the detention of families until their asylum cases are decided.

In a March 28 letter to Congress, Secretary Nielsen asked for authority to allow immigration authorities to deport asylum-seeking children more quickly, often without the benefit of legal counsel. Such a proposal is contrary to the American rule of law. Our nation places a high priority on the welfare of children, and the government should not undercut the rights of asylum-seeking children – particularly unaccompanied children – to consult with legal counsel and to be heard by an immigration judge.

Secretary Nielsen’s letter to Congress also asks for the authority to detain families while their asylum and immigration cases are pending. This is contrary to a court ruling that limits the amount of time children can be detained, to protect them from psychological and physical harm. The ABA opposes the detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers except in cases of flight risk or danger to the community. The use of cost-effective and humane alternatives, such as family case management, has been effective to ensure families appear for their immigration court hearings.

Finally, Secretary Nielsen requested more money, personnel, and resources to address the humanitarian needs of immigrants and asylum-seekers on the border. The American Bar Association has long supported efforts to hire more immigration judges and court staff to address the crippling backlog in our nation’s immigration courts. We also support greater resources for asylum offices and law enforcement, to provide a safe environment and fair proceedings for all asylum-seekers, particularly children.



With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations 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. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.