The federal government was sued on Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union for its failure to provide legal representation to immigrant children who are involved in deportation hearings, according to NPR.
The lawsuit, which is a class-action suit, was filed for eight immigrants who range in age from 10 to 17. The ACLU said that the children have not been able to find lawyers.
Immigration courts do not provide lawyers for immigrants who are fighting deportation in the United States.The courtroom in San Antonio is overrun with immigrant children who do not have lawyers to represent them. Jonathan Ryan attends the juvenile docket each week and he runs the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in the city.
The nation’s immigration courts are backlogged by 367,000 pending cases of children and adults.
“You’ve got a very highly paid, well-trained prosecutor. You’ve got a highly paid, well-trained judge. And a child,” Ryan said to NPR. “If we are going to put these children through this gauntlet, appoint them a lawyer.”
Children who have an attorney are more likely to have their deportation cases move slower than those who do not have a lawyer.
“It makes the court process not just more efficient, but more fair when both parties are represented,” says Ryan.
Some of the programs funded by the Executive Office of Immigration Review that help children find a lawyer are Justice AmeriCorps, the Legal Orientation Program, and the Recognition and Accreditation Program.
Ahilan Arulanantham, a senior ACLU attorney, told NPR, “They’re trying. But on the other hand, the government pays for a lawyer in every case to prosecute the child. Then they really should also be willing to spend the resources needed to represent children on the other side.”
President Barack Obama recently requested $45 million for 40 immigration judge teams on top of the ones already working in the courts.
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