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Immigrant Advocacy Groups Sue U.S. for Failure to Provide Lawyers to Unauthorized Minor Immigrant Children

Social_Support_for_Underprivileged_Children_and_Victims_of_Trafficking.jpgThis week, the immigration-related topic that has captivated the national media concerns the great influx of foreign national children who are coming by themselves to the U.S. from Mexico and Central American countries, including El Salvador and Guatemala. The President has found himself in a political and practical bind as he tries to convince Congress to authorize an emergency grant of over $3 million to be used to address this increase in border crossings.

Apart from the practical logistics of coping with the more than 50,000 unaccompanied and minor children who are now in the U.S., the nation is struggling with the emotional side of this issue as pundits and lawmakers debate whether to initiate deportation proceedings against this population or to place them in immigration centers. At its core, the country is currently at a loss about what to do with these children and how to address their unique predicament.

Immigration Group Takes Matters into its Own Hands

A number of immigrant advocacy groups know exactly what to do for these children: provide them with legal representatives who can support their interests and well-being as they navigate the complexities of the U.S. immigration law and court system. Since these children are by themselves, it is very difficult for them to access immigration attorneys on their own.

To help these children, several advocacy organizations have banded together and sued the federal government on the grounds that the government failed to provide the children with legal representation, and therefore infringed on the children’s due process rights. The lawsuit was filed as a class action suit in Seattle’s federal court.

Information about the Lawsuit

Since the lawsuit is a class action suit, not all of the individuals potentially affected by its results are named on the court documents. The listed plaintiffs are eight children hailing from Mexico and different Central American countries. The immigrant advocacy groups filed the lawsuit on the same day that the Department of Justice announced its plans to move up deportation cases from unaccompanied minor children in order to have these cases completed quickly and the children returned to their home countries.

The U.S. government agency that is named in the lawsuit is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At this time, ICE’s position is that the agency’s practice is to refrain from commenting on pending litigation.

Basis of the Lawsuit

This lawsuit is very unique and addresses interesting moral and legal issues. Since deportation proceedings are considered civil proceedings and not criminal, defendants (regardless of their citizenship or immigration status) are not guaranteed the right to an attorney. However, the lawsuit alleges that children, due to their youth and less developed emotional capacity and intelligence, are not able to adequately represent their interests and cannot understand the ramifications of the deportation proceedings or the possible legal remedies available to them.

The Rant

Since the lawsuit was only recently filed, it will take several days or even months for any type of decision to be made on this case. As the country awaits Congress’ and the President’s actions concerning the unaccompanied minor children, it is the hope of immigration lawyers that these children will find sanctuary in a country that is better equipped to protect them than their own. Continue to check with our blog to receive the latest immigration news.

Additional Blog Posts
What Immigrants Need to Know About the Government Shutdown, ImmigRantings, October 10, 2013
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012