Immigrant-rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration for failing to provide legal representation to illegal immigrant children in deportation hearings Wednesday.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP, it is an injustice that many illegal immigrant minors appear before immigration courts without an attorney.
“If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts,” Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement, pointing out that the government always has representation by a trained prosecutor.
J.E.F.M. v. Holder — the 27-page suit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle — charges that the government is violating the illegal immigrants’ due process rights and the Immigration and Nationality Act by failing to provide the minors with legal representation.
“Both the Constitution and the immigration laws guarantee all children the right to a full and fair removal hearing, including the opportunity to defend against deportation and seek any forms of relief that would enable them to remain in the United States,” the suit argues.
The groups filed suit on behalf of eight minors in deportation proceedings.
“The plight of these eight children is not unique. Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of unrepresented children, all of whom face deportation,” it reads.
The suit comes as tens of thousands of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors flood across the border. Since October, more then 52,000 unaccompanied immigrant minors have crossed the southern border into the U.S. illegally in what many deem to be a crisis.
The Obama administration recently announced an effort to provide legal assistance to the young immigrants facing deportation.
According to the suing groups, that effort is not enough.
“While our law firm, and others around the country, provide free legal services to children facing the injustice of appearing alone in court, we can help only a small fraction of the children in need,” Theo Angelis, a partner at K&L Gates LLP, added in a statement.