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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 10, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 06
Rep. Jayapal introduces bill to protect people detained while entering the US
Section One
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Rep. Jayapal introduces bill to protect people detained while entering the US

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Newly elected congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-7) has introduced her first bill - the Access to Counsel Act - to make certain that people detained while attempting to enter the United States are guaranteed access to legal counsel.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), also newly elected to her post, is sponsoring the companion bill in the Senate.

The bill is being brought forward even before the chaos created by Donald Trump's Muslim-ban executive order has been fully sorted out.

After Trump's order, hundreds of travelers - including refugees, immigrants, green card holders, and US citizens, many of them women, children, or elderly - were detained at US ports of entry. Many were held without food or water or access to legal counsel to help them understand their rights.

'The day after the president signed his inhumane Muslim-ban executive order, innocent men, women, and children at Seattle-Tacoma and airports across the country were detained and barred from entering the United States without any access to counsel,' Jayapal said in a statement.

'Unlawfully detaining and deporting individuals is wrong, and denying them access to an attorney is a gross violation of basic rights. To uphold principles of due process and fair treatment, this bill will ensure the government gives individuals access to an attorney.'

'Detention without access to representation goes against the basic values of our judicial system,' Harris added.

'Refugees, immigrants, students, and tourists all deserve to be able to access their lawyer in legal proceedings that could change the course of their lives, whether they enter the country at an airport or come across the border. Interactions with immigration enforcement officials are often confusing and disorienting, and no one should be exploited because of their lack of knowledge of our legal system.'

Jayapal's bill requires Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to provide access to counsel to anyone, including noncitizens and unaccompanied children, who may be detained at airports, ports of entry, and detention centers.

The Access to Counsel Act of 2017 would:

o affirm that the right to access to counsel attaches at the time of holding or detention;

o provide a redress option if counsel cannot personally meet with those detained at the border or ports of entry for the provision of legal advice remotely (e.g., phone or videoconference);

o invalidate any effort by immigration enforcement officials to persuade someone to relinquish their legal status (by executing a Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status or Withdrawal of Application for Admission) if that person has been denied access to counsel; and

o direct that CBP and ICE shall limit detention to the briefest term possible and least restrictive conditions practicable, and include access to food, water, and restroom facilities.

Eleven members of the US House of Representatives have signed on as original co-sponsors for the Access to Counsel Act: Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Luis GutiƩrrez (D-Ill.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D- Calif.), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), and Cedric Richmond (D-La.). Six senators signed on as original co-sponsors: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Thirty-five organizations, including the City of Seattle, are also supporting the legislation.

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