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Lawsuit seeks legal counsel for children in immigration hearings

Many individuals reading this blog are likely aware of the large influx of children who have entered the United States without proper documentation. While there are likely many reasons these young people are making their way to the U.S. without the accompaniment of an adult, it is fair to say that all are probably seeking a better life than what is available to them in their home countries. After crossing the border, many young people are taken into custody by the U.S. government with the intent that they will be deported. 

In a previous post we discussed the possibility that some of these individuals might be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which would enable them to obtain a green card and stay in the U.S. They might even at some point become citizens. Because it is usually difficult to prove the abuse, neglect or abandonment, necessary to qualify for this program, many would probably not be eligible for the program and be deported.

A recently filed federal class action lawsuit seeks to potentially allow more children to stay by providing legal counsel to them during the deportation hearing that takes place before they can be returned to their home county. The lawsuit, filed against the U.S., alleges that the failure to provide these children an attorney while an experienced lawyer is making a case for the U.S., is a violation of both the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment as well as the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In addition to certification as a class, the plaintiffs in the case, eight children between the ages of 10 and 17, seek an injunction and declaratory judgment.

How this matter will be resolved is unclear. Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, it illustrates the importance of working with a lawyer in legal matters such as those involving immigration.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Young Immigrants Need Attorneys, Class Says,” July 9, 2014

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