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H.R. 574: Equal Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Act

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 15, 2019.

Equal Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Act

This bill amends rules for the treatment of unaccompanied alien children and asylum-seeking families, and for detaining and removal of various types of aliens.

The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to return an inadmissible unaccompanied child to the child's country of nationality or last habitual residence, where currently DHS has discretion to do so.

Interviews with unaccompanied alien children shall be conducted by those with specialized training for interviewing child trafficking victims.

Before placing an alien child with an individual, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall provide DHS with various information, including the individual's immigration status and contact information. DHS shall initiate removal proceedings if the individual is unlawfully present in the United States.

Under the bill, unaccompanied alien children in DHS or HHS custody shall have access to counsel in legal proceedings, where currently such children shall have counsel.

DHS shall have authority to extend the detention periods for various categories of removable aliens. The bill also expands the definitions of various types of crimes, such as those related to explosive materials, that are aggravated felonies or crimes of violence for immigration purposes. Aliens associated with criminal gangs shall be inadmissible to the United States and deportable.

The bill directs DHS, the Department of Justice, and HHS to maintain facilities for housing asylum applicants and their children, and increases the number of immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys and necessary support staff.