Constitutional Law

Civil rights groups sue feds to get lawyers for juveniles in deportation hearings

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Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Seattle against Attorney General Eric Holder and other U.S. officials. They contend it is “fundamentally unfair” to require children facing deportation hearings to proceed without legal representation and are seeking a court order requiring the Department of Justice to arrange to provide defense counsel for juveniles throughout the country.

The Hill provides a copy of the complaint (PDF). It requests class-action status for the case and seeks a declaratory judgment that requiring children to defend themselves in deportation hearings violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts,” said senior staff attorney Ahilan Arulanantham in an American Civil Liberties press release. “The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone.”

Arulanantham works on the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

In addition to the ACLU, the American Immigration Council, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel and law firm K&L Gates are involved in the litigation.

Related coverage: “Poor NYC immigrants facing possible deportation will get free public defenders” “Trafficking law helps spur flow of immigrant children to US”

Washington Post (reg. req.): “Most children illegally crossing the border alone will be deported, White House signals”

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