Unaccompanied minors in immigration detention are entitled to bail hearings in front of an immigration judge, a federal appeals court panel ruled unanimously, Politico reports. The Justice Department argued that a 2002 law transferring responsibility for unaccompanied immigrant minors to the Department of Health and Human Services and a 2008 law aimed at limiting human trafficking superseded a 1997 settlement under which the government agreed to provide such hearings. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit disagreed. “Not a single word in either statute indicates that Congress intended to supersede, terminate, or take away any right enjoyed by unaccompanied minors at the time of the acts’ passage,” said Judge Stephen Reinhardt, joined by Judges Marsha Berzon and Wallace Tashima.
Government lawyers argued that meetings HHS officials hold with detained minors are sufficient to protect their interests. Immigration lawyers are not permitted at those sessions, and they lack many of the formal procedural safeguards of immigration court hearings. The decision rejected an emergency appeal filed in February as one of the Justice Department’s first immigration-related actions under President Trump, although the government took a similar stance under President Barack Obama.