Appeals court to decide if immigrant children get court-appointed attorneys

immigrant child in custodyEleven federal appeals court judges have heard testimony in a lawsuit over whether undocumented children have the right to a government-paid lawyer. Lawyers for an immigrant minor who was unrepresented in immigration hearings argue that the Fifth Amendment guarantees the minor the right to an attorney, according to KPIX. 

“We want a ruling that children facing deportation are entitled to legal representation,” said C.J.’s lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham, told reporters after the hearing. Arulanantham, who is Senior Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, argued the case before the judges.

Cost is an issue. If each of the 102,000 migrant juveniles apprehended near the US-Mexico border were provided an attorney, it would cost more than $276 million, KPIX reports. Meanwhile, the minor plaintiff in the lawsuit is attending high school in Los Angeles while he awaits the panel’s decision, which is expected in 2019.

Jeff Sessions’ hurried justice for immigrants

Attorney General Jeff SessionsImmigration court isn’t like other courts in our country. They’ve long been criticized for the lack of due process, including the fact that defendants, even children, can’t get court-appointed lawyers. Perhaps the biggest difference is that immigration judges are actually employees of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch. And the Attorney General can overrule decisions made by immigration judges. David Hausman of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project writes about how Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using immigration court to deport more people more quickly and waging war on due process.