Immigration Law

Federal push for deportation includes 7,700 minors who never went to court, advocates say

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Immigrant advocates say minor immigrants are facing a “due process crisis” sparked by the Obama administration’s latest push to deport people ordered removed.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that more than 7,700 immigrant minors have been ordered deported without ever having appeared in court. That number comes from federal data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Those statistics show that 7,706 minors failed to show up to their removal hearings, which means automatic deportation in immigration court. But immigrant advocates say that in many cases, the minors were never notified of their hearings. Notices went to the wrong address; went out too late; or never went out at all, they said. In some cases, advocates say, minors were ordered to hearings held at the location where the government initially processed them, rather than where they ended up living.

It’s not clear how many of the 7,706 minors intentionally failed to show up to court or have already been deported.

Wendy Young, head of advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense, called this a due process crisis. KIND and other organizations sent a letter to the federal government last year requesting that it stop deporting minors who fail to show up to court, and reopen such cases when a removal order had already been issued.

In the letter, one attorney said only one of her 13 clients had received proper notice of a first hearing. Another said a child was ordered to appear in New Orleans, despite living in federal custody in Virginia.

People subject to deportation can reopen their cases if they can show they never received notice or genuinely couldn’t show up, Wake Forest University law professor Margaret Taylor told the newspaper. But this may be a daunting task for minors who do not have lawyers—and public defenders are not available in immigration court, because immigration offenses are not crimes.

A class-action lawsuit in the state of Washington is arguing that immigrant minors should be provided attorneys. That lawsuit includes allegations that several plaintiffs did not receive proper notice. The grandmother of one plaintiff said she’d contacted the court repeatedly for court dates, but was told to wait for a notice. No notice ever came, and she later found out the removal hearing had already been held, and her granddaughter had been ordered to be deported.

A judge will hear the government’s motion to dismiss that case on Friday.

Related article: “ABA urges adequate legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant minors”

See also:

Statement by ABA President Paulette Brown: “Re: Immigration Raids Targeting Central American Families Seeking U.S. Protection” “ABA Commission on Immigration report excoriates federal detention policy for immigrant families”

ABA Journal: “ABA cites health and well-being of asylum-seeking mothers and children”

ABA Journal: “US immigration detention policies are ‘incompatible with basic principles of justice,’ says law prof”

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