Last month, the ACLU joined several other groups in filing a nationwide, class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children, challenging the federal government’s failure to provide them with lawyers in their deportation hearings. Late last week we followed up with a preliminary injunction motion to ask that the proceedings be delayed until several of our plaintiffs – ranging in age from 10 to 17 - are provided with attorneys.
A simple thought exercise quickly shows why this is such an important issue. Imagine you are one of our plaintiffs, such as the 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends, or the 14-year-old girl who was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members. Now you’re forced to defend yourself in court – alone - against a trained government prosecutor, with the threat of deportation if things go badly.
The United States should not put children in this position, no matter what the circumstances are. Immigration laws are extremely complex and many of the children who face these expedited hearings are legally eligible to remain here but may not know how to prove their claims. It violates every conceivable definition of “due process” to put them in that position by themselves.
The ACLU is joined in our lawsuit by the American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP. You can find our preliminary injunction motion here, and it is also worth reading this narrative from an ACLU attorney who has worked with children facing these dire circumstances.
If you want to lend your voice to this issue, take a quick moment to sign our online petition here, calling on President Obama to provide legal representation to all children facing deportation.
Whether by court order or executive action, we must put a stop to deportation hearings against children being conducted without a lawyer present. No child should face a judge alone, period.