The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued the U.S. government for its failure to provide legal representation to immigrant children in deportation proceedings, reports NPR. The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight immigrants ages 10 to 17 who the ACLU says have not been able to find a lawyer. The complaint applies to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the Southwest border in recent years and have ended up in U.S. immigration court.
U.S. immigration courts, unlike criminal courts, do not provide lawyers for immigrants who are fighting deportation. Lawyer Jonathan Ryan of RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in San Antonio, says, “You’ve got a very highly paid, well-trained prosecutor. You’ve got a highly paid, well-trained judge. And a child. If we are going to put these children through this gauntlet, appoint them a lawyer.” Immigrant advocates say that more than half of all unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings do not have legal counsel. With more than 50,000 newly arrived kids in the past nine months seeking green cards, the number is sure to balloon. Asylum seekers with an attorney are ordered deported at a much lower rate than those who go it alone through U.S. immigration law.