How much do you think it would cost to give a lawyer to each of the 52,000 (and counting) illegal immigrant minors apprehended?

WASHINGTON — Democratic U.S. lawmakers announced legislation on Monday that would provide lawyers for thousands of undocumented minors streaming across the border into the United States, saying forcing children to face deportation proceedings alone goes against fundamental American values.

“It is a fantasy to believe that they have a fair shot in immigration proceedings without counsel,” New York U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries told a news conference.

Jeffries and the other House of Representatives Democrats introducing the bill said as many as 40 to 50 percent of the undocumented children would have legitimate claims to remain in the United States under current law, citing studies by the United Nations and other agencies.

They also said their bill could save some $2 billion a year because timely immigration proceedings would eliminate the need to house thousands of children for months at a time.

From October to June 15, 52,000 unaccompanied children arrived on the U.S. border with Mexico, according to the Obama administration. Most are fleeing gang and drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

A similar provision to provide legal counsel for children and mentally impaired immigrants was included in a comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate last year. But the measure has stalled in the House, where Republicans hold a majority of seats.

There was no immediate indication that the new bill would make any more progress, given deep partisan divisions on the immigration issue in the United States.

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