Children facing immigration proceedings without lawyers
Anyone charged with a crime in the United States has a constitutional right to an attorney at no cost if they don’t have money to hire one.
But the right to a lawyer currently does not extend to immigration proceedings – and a report in azfamily.com reveals that more than 2,300 children in Arizona face the prospect of going through the system without legal representation.
In previous years, the number of children facing the immigration court system in Arizona ranged between 100 and 350 children per year, according to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
According to an article in The Nation, less than one-third of the children who started proceedings in the immigration court system nationwide in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years had attorneys. Without attorneys, children could face a higher risk of being deported. Some of the children without lawyers in immigration court are toddlers. The New York Daily News reported on a 1-year-old who appeared before a Phoenix immigration judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has challenged the government’s contention that children have no right to an attorney in immigration proceedings. The ACLU’s position is that the government should pay for legal representation for children.
“It’s an absolute joke to think that a 10-year-old or a 14-year-old can stand before a judge and make the case [for] why they shouldn’t be deported,” Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona told azfamily.com.
Toddlers facing court proceedings without lawyers
The government argues that immigration proceedings are civil proceedings – not criminal – which is why people, including children, have no right to legal counsel.
It’s not the first time the ACLU has challenged the government’s position on legal representation for immigrants in court. The organization successfully argued the mentally disabled have a right to a court-appointed attorney during immigration proceedings, according to azfamily.com.
As immigration attorneys, we work on behalf of families who are facing deportation and other immigration issues. With so much at stake, it’s critical for people – especially children – to have an attorney at their side.
Children now have to hire a private attorney to represent them in an immigration court or rely on legal groups to offer their services free of charge (known as pro bono work).
The Florence Project, a legal aid organization, offers free legal services and aims to represent all juveniles facing immigration proceedings in Arizona. But with the number of children going through the immigration court system increasing, it’s becoming more difficult to represent each child, according to the azfamily.com article.
Children who are not represented in court face the alarming prospect of getting kicked out of the United States and sent back to dangerous countries.
While going through the immigration court system can be stressful and confusing, you don’t have to go through it alone. Our law firm handles a range of cases involving immigration. If you need an experienced immigration lawyer, contact Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC.