Washington, DC, July 18, 2006— LAWFUEL -Press Release Service – The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children today is releasing a first-of-its kind video to help unaccompanied immigrant and asylum seeking children who are seeking safe haven in the United States understand immigration court.
“What Happens When I Go to Immigration Court” will give children who arrive alone in the United States an overview of the legal process that will determine their future. Approximately 8,000 children seek safety in the United States each year; many are fleeing abuses such as exploitation, violence, forced military recruitment, forced marriage or harmful traditional practices.
“The Women’s Commission hopes that this video will help make unaccompanied children less fearful and better able to explain why they fled their home country,” says Executive Director Carolyn Makinson. “This could prevent children with legitimate asylum claims from being returned to life-threatening situations.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the lead Senate sponsor of the bipartisan Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2005, says, “It is a key priority of mine to ensure that unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. receive proper treatment within our federal system. Many are vulnerable children who have suffered traumatic circumstances and are then forced to struggle through a legal system designed primarily for adults. This educational video is a much needed tool that will help these children better understand what they can expect in Immigration Court proceedings.”
U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the chief sponsor of the bipartisan companion bill in the House, says, “When children are alone, seeking refuge in the U.S., they receive little guidance as they try to navigate a complex immigration system that even informed adults fear. For many years, I have tried to improve the situation for children in the immigration system by sponsoring the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act. The Women’s Commission has developed a new resource that will help children who are here alone, without an adult to help them, better understand the legal process that will determine their future.”
The 15-minute educational video, created pro bono by Los Angeles producer Kim Berner, uses child-friendly language and features child actors in a real courtroom. It is available in English, Creole, French, Fuchow and Spanish. Hollywood director and producer Doug Liman provided financial backing and helped facilitate the pro bono services of the production team. Holland & Knight LLP provided invaluable legal assistance and helped developed a user’s guide.
“It is an honor for our law firm to have partnered with the Women’s Commission in creating and inaugurating this precedent-setting resource,” said Holland & Knight Managing Partner Howell W. Melton, Jr. “The video and accompanying manual will undoubtedly benefit unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children in securing protection and safety in this country. This work builds upon our law firm’s historic commitment to providing direct pro bono representation and advocacy for these voiceless children.”
The video will be distributed nationwide to immigration courts, legal services organizations and pro bono attorneys and will be accompanied by a user’s guide. It also can be accessed from the Women’s Commission’s website www.womenscommission.org and streamed from the website of Holland & Knight LLP http://www.hklaw.com/CST/WomensCommission.asp