American Immigration Council Sues Government

  • Leslie Spacek
  • Thu Jul 10th 2014

In yet another complication in the border crisis, the American Immigration Council is taking action against the U.S. government on behalf of thousands of children who, they say, are unconstitutionally forced into deportation hearings.

Beth Werlin, American Immigration Council: "Today we filed a lawsuit, a class action lawsuit, with eight children named as plaintiffs ages ranging from 10 years old to 17 years old. And they're filing his lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children all over the country who are forced into immigration court proceedings and don't have lawyers."

In addition to the American Immigration Council, the groups who are representing the children are the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and the law firm K&L Gates.

Beth Werlin, American Immigration Council: "They're up there without any legal representation. They're up against a trained immigration lawyer who is acting as a prosecutor, arguing for their deportation from the United States."

The reality, Werlin says, is that every year tens of thousands of children are going into immigration court alone.

The objective of the lawsuit is to have the court say that no child should be deported without having legal representation.

Beth Werlin, American Immigration Council: "That just violates fundamental fairness, constitutional due process, and were asking the court to recognize that these children deserve a fair day in court…And that's not what they're getting without legal representation."

So how does this affect today's crisis—the children being detained right now?

Beth Werlin, American Immigration Council: "Our suit is filed on behalf of all children. Whether they came in recently, or whether they've been here for many years."

Meaning, if the court were to certify the class as the lawsuit defines it, it would includes all individuals facing immigration court proceedings who are under 18, including those in custody today.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel; the President’s emergency funding request, yesterday, for $3.7 billion to address the border crisis did allocate funding to deportation hearings. But that may not be enough to fix the fundamental problem of the court system.

Beth Werlin, American Immigration Council: “We’re encouraged by that acknowledgment but unfortunately, none of the proposal that we’ve seen so far goes far enough and ensures representation for all children.”

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