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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Groups Sue over Failure to Provide Lawyers for Children in Deportation Proceedings

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
The following press released was originally published on American Immigration Council's website.

Released on Wed, Jul 09, 2014

Washington D.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP today filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them.

Each year, the government initiates immigration court proceedings against thousands of children. Some of these youth grew up in the United States and have lived in the country for years, and many have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. The Obama Administration even recently called an influx of children coming across the Southern border a "humanitarian situation." And yet, thousands of children required to appear in immigration court each year do so without an attorney. This case seeks to remedy this unacceptable practice.

"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 government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone."

The plaintiffs in this case include:

  • A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.
  • A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.
  • A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.
  • A 16-year-old boy born in Mexico who has lived here since he was 1 year old and has had lawful status since June 2010.
  • A 16-year-old boy with limited communication skills and special education issues who escaped brutal violence exacted on his family in Honduras, and who has lived in Southern California since he was 8 years old.
  • A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent resident father in Los Angeles.

All are scheduled to appear at deportation hearings without any legal representation and face a very real risk of being sent back into the perilous circumstances they left.

While the Obama Administration recently announced a limited program to provide legal assistance to some youth facing deportation hearings, this proposal does not come close to meeting the urgent need for legal representation for all children whom the government wants to deport. And there is no guarantee that additional funding proposed by the administration yesterday will materialize or meet the overwhelming need. In the meantime, children continue to appear alone in court every day.

"While our law firm, and others around the country, provide free legal services to children facing the injustice of appearing alone in court, we can help only a small fraction of the children in need," said Theo Angelis, a partner at K&L Gates LLP.

Kristen Jackson, senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, a not-for-profit law firm that works with immigrant children, added, "Each day, we are contacted by children in desperate need of lawyers to advocate for them in their deportation proceedings. Pro bono efforts have been valiant, but they will never fully meet the increasing and complex needs these children present. The time has come for our government to recognize our Constitution’s promise of fairness and its duty to give these children a real voice in court."

The complaint charges the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a "full and fair hearing" before an immigration judge. It seeks to require the government to provide children with legal representation in their deportation hearings.

"Deportation carries serious consequences for children, whether it is return to a country they fled because of violence and persecution or being separated from their homes and families. Yet children are forced into immigration court without representation – a basic protection most would assume is required whenever someone’s liberty is at stake. Requiring children to fight against deportation without a lawyer is incompatible with American values of due process and justice for all," said Beth Werlin, deputy legal director for the American Immigration Council.

"It is simply unacceptable that children are forced to stand alone before an immigration judge, pitted against trained attorneys from the federal government," said Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. "Any notion of justice or fair play requires that these children be provided legal representation."

The case, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Wash.

For press inquiries, contact:

Wendy Feliz, American Immigration Council, 202-507-7524202-507-7524 or
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, American Civil Liberties Union, 212-549-2666212-549-2666 or
Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 206-501-6249206-501-6249 or
Kristen Jackson, Public Counsel, 213-385-2977213-385-2977 ext. 157 or
Michael Rick, K&L Gates LLP, 412-355-6455412-355-6455 or

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  1. Someone12's Avatar
    Ever notice that the ACLU isn't stepping forward, nor are any (overpaid) members of AILA...yet they expect the US taxpayers to foot the bill, while these j-offs whine and wring their hands, but won't do anything unless their meter is running at full speed....a commonality amongst immigration money, no surprise. Don't see ole Rog nor ole Matt stepping up....merely castigating American citizens or the US two, as well as the rest of AILA, should move to Antarctica, since you have zero patriotism.
  2. Retired INS's Avatar
    Deportation is an administrative matter, not criminal. When I arrested illegal aliens I never told them they had a right to a free attorney. It has been my experience that immigration judges are neutral and will not order anyone deported unless there is ample evidence. That said, there are discretionary benefits that may apply and a good attorney may be needed to know what these are.

    I understand these children have no money, but how did they get here without money? Someone is bribing Mexican authorities. Someone is paying bus fares, or train tickets, or whatever means of transportation they use. Oh, maybe he coyotes are working pro bono!! As an immigration manager, I heard these argument daily by those asking for fee waivers: "We spent all our money, now help us."

    On a case by case basis I granted many fee waivers, but never to an entire group of people. Why should we now arbitrarily provide every illegal alien with a free lawyer?
  3. Someone12's Avatar
    The American taxpayers are getting pretty fed up with having their pockets picked to pay for services that they themselves would have to cover, if involved in their own case. ACLU whiners and other 'noble practitioners' of AILA also try to get American taxpayers to shed tears and see their tax dollars going down a rat hole, but oddly none of the 11,000+ AILA members is apparently willing to 'step up' themselves at a reduced rate....but then, they don't want to forgo their $400 an hour billing rate....they want more.
  4. Someone12's Avatar
    don't you think that claims of pro bona work are offset by submitting an invoice to the USG by many of these 'valiant' practitioners? (my guess is yes)
  5. Jack2's Avatar
    "While the Obama Administration recently announced a limited program to provide legal assistance to some youth facing deportation hearings"

    How is that legal? I noticed that the INA grants the right to an attorney but “at no expense to the government.” Any comments on this are welcome.
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