In the recent weeks, Texas and other states along the U.S.-Mexico border have seen a surge in the number of unaccompanied children who have been apprehended as they attempted to cross into the United States. The majority of these immigrant children are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. An article posted on The Huffington Post reviews this issue and what's at stake.
Now, immigration advocates and civil rights groups have begun questioning how this situation will be resolved. With so many children needing to be processed and go before an immigration judge, the task seems daunting, to say the least.
As the situation has progressed, civil rights and immigration advocacy groups have now filed a “class-action lawsuit against the federal government for failing to provide legal representation to thousands of minors in deportation proceedings.” The groups argue that agencies are violating the rights of immigrants who are not receiving fair hearings. This goes against what is legally afforded to these individuals under the due process clause of the Constitution.
Those who are involved in criminal matters are afforded the right to counsel, however removal proceedings are considered a civil issue and this means that individuals must find representation with no help from the government, or go without legal counsel. Some immigrants are able to find pro bono services, but the need vastly outweighs the supply. This is especially true now with the current situation at the border.
Meanwhile immigration advocates are fighting for these unaccompanied minors. "If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts," said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.
The complaint is J.E.F.M. v. Holder and it was flied by the ACLU, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP in the United States District Court in Seattle. Specifically, the case goes after the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services and names specific agencies within each of those departments.
The lawsuit points to six specific cases involving minors who will be going in front of an immigration judge without having an attorney present. They youngest of these children is only 10 years old and each has said that they “faced gang violence and abuse in their native countries.”
In early July, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to help with the situation at the border. Included in that amount is $15 million that is earmarked for “direct legal representation services for minors going through deportation proceedings.” However, this does not mean that every child will receive counsel.
If you are seeking counsel for immigration matters, do not hesitate to contact our office. Immigration laws are detailed and confusing. You do not have to do go through this alone. We can schedule an initial consultation in order to meet with you and discuss the facts of your case.