Immigration Law

9th Circuit finds juvenile facing deportation has no right to free lawyer

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The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a minor brought to the United States with his mother from Central America has no right to a court-appointed lawyer in immigration proceedings.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found no due process or statutory right to a government-funded lawyer for the Honduran youth. The decision upheld a deportation order, Reuters reports.

Though minors are entitled to heightened protection in removal proceedings, legal precedent does not “include any suggestion that the government should foot the bill for counsel,” the 9th Circuit said in a decision by Judge Consuelo Callahan.

In any event, Callahan said, there was no due process violation. The immigration judge developed the record and considered a 2014 State Department report on conditions in Honduras. Any deficiencies in the proceedings did not prejudice the youth because of substantial evidence that he was not entitled to asylum, the court said.

The boy was 13 when he arrived in the United States with his mother. He had fled Honduras after refusing to join a gang and receiving death threats in retaliation, according to the opinion.

A concurrence by Judge John Owens said the decision concerned a minor who came to the United States with a family member rather than an unaccompanied minor.

“The opinion does not hold, or even discuss, whether the due process clause mandates counsel for unaccompanied minors,” Owens said. “That is a different question that could lead to a different answer.”

The decision is C.J.L.G. v. Sessions.

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