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More Immigration-Related Litigation – Federal Court Allows Undocumented Foreign National Children to Sue For Legal Representation

children-crossing-border.bmpRecently, immigration-related litigation has been covered extensively by the media due to a Texas federal court issuing an injunction to temporarily halt the implementation of President Obama’s executive orders. The White House has appealed the Texas Judge’s ruling, but this case is far from over, and immigration rights advocates are eagerly awaiting the good news that a higher court has overturned the injunction.

Thankfully, advocates and foreign nationals alike did not have to wait long for related good news when recently a U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington made a critical decision upholding the rights of undocumented foreign national children. Specifically, in a case brought against the federal government, Judge Thomas Zilly rejected the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit that seeks to provide legal representation for foreign national children who are in deportation proceedings.

The Case

The federal court case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a group of nine El Salvadoran siblings who entered the United States in 2013 without authorization in order to escape the prevalent gang violence in their home country. The children escaped from their home country after they witnessed gang members kill their father right in front of them outside their family home. The siblings were placed into deportation proceedings and did not have access to a lawyer.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to dismiss the case and argued that it would be too expensive for the federal government to pay for legal representation in these types of immigration cases. Judge Zilly dismissed the motion on the grounds that the children’s request for legal representation constituted a due process argument and thus required an actual response from the DOJ.

The ACLU’s Other Efforts to Protect Foreign Nationals

In addition to filing lawsuits in order to safeguard the rights of foreign nationals in court, the ACLU is also active in monitoring the federal government’s policies and practices with regards to how foreign nationals are treated once they are placed into deportation proceedings. For example, the ACLU often challenges the federal government’s practice of placing foreign nationals in detention facilities while the nationals await a hearing that determines whether or not they will be deported. Recently, the organization voiced its disappointment at the federal government’s passage of the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security on the grounds that the bill provides for about $400 million for detention centers.

The civil rights organization expressed disappointment last month when the federal government passed a new Department of Homeland Security funding bill that allocated more than $350 million toward these shelters. According to an ACLU spokesperson, the organization feels that Congress should allocate money for alternatives to detention in place of funding detention centers, which the ACLU views as inefficient and expensive to the taxpayer.

The Rant

It is certainly encouraging that the Seattle judge took a critical step towards protecting the legal rights of undocumented foreign national children. These children represent a most vulnerable demographic that require as much legal protection as possible. Continue to check back with our blog for the most up to date immigration news.

Additional Blog Posts

Democrats Propose New Immigration Reform, ImmigRantings, July 20, 2011
Congress Asks DHS to Grant Temporary Protected Status to Filipinos, ImmigRantings, December 5, 2013