Illegal aliens who try to enter the United States may be detained and deported. This is true whether the aliens are adults or children. In 2000, nearly 4,700 children were detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Children are detained by INS after being picked up at U.S. borders without a parent or guardian and without proper documentation. The issue with these children is not that they are stopped from entering the United States illegally, but that they are held in such facilities as juvenile and county jails. Moreover, they face deportation, often to countries where they may be persecuted. They have no right to paid legal counsel. Reports that some who are detained in jails are mistreated has led human rights organizations to call for investigations.
In 2001 U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, which would establish an Office of Children’s Service at the U.S. Department of Justice. This office would be in charge of ensuring that children are treated humanely while in custody and that decisions on their future would be made based on their shortand long-term needs. It would also provide for legal counsel and guardians, as necessary, to be appointed to represent the children’s interests.