Alone and Unrepresented: A Call to Congress to Provide Counsel for Unaccompanied Minors

54 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2013

See all articles by Shani M. King

Shani M. King

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School; Rutgers Law School

Date Written: June 13, 2013


The legal rights of children who enter a country without their parents or other guardians, including the right to legal representation in immigration proceedings, differ vastly across the globe. This Article is the first to show that unaccompanied minors lie at the nexus of international and regional human rights standards governing the treatment of immigrants, children, and civil counsel and to show how the development of human rights standards in these three areas underscores the importance of and the need for counsel for unaccompanied minors. Part I illustrates why unaccompanied minors in the United States need legal representation by focusing on the complexity of immigration proceedings, the likelihood that children will be deprived of their liberty at some point in the process, and the law and practice relating to representation. Part II analyzes how developing regional and international legal standards for children’s rights, refugee rights, and the right to free civil counsel support the right to free legal counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings. Part III identifies the differing approaches to legal representation for unaccompanied minors around the world, and Part IV endorses a model for representation for unaccompanied minors based on developing human rights law as well as best practices and ethical standards in the United States. The Article concludes that the recommended model should be at the forefront of U.S. legislative consideration so that the United States does not continue to run afoul of well-developed principals of human rights law affecting unaccompanied minors.

Keywords: Immigration, Juvenile, Juveniles, Human Rights, Children, Civil Counsel, Representation, Refugee, Unaccompanied, United States, Comparative, International, Immigrants, Migrants, Race, Ethnicity

Suggested Citation

King, Shani M., Alone and Unrepresented: A Call to Congress to Provide Counsel for Unaccompanied Minors (June 13, 2013). Harvard Journal on Legislation, Vol. 50, No. 2, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Shani M. King (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School ( email )

Newark, NJ
United States

Rutgers Law School ( email )

217 N. Fifth Street
Camden, NJ 08102
United States

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