Government accused of denying immigrant children legal representation

Human Rights Watch has gone to federal appeals court to file an amicus brief alleging that the US government has been denying immigrant minors who are facing deportation the right to have legal representation during their immigration hearings. The non-profit organization made the announcement on Monday that they were launching a class action lawsuit against the government on behalf of thousands of immigrant minors faced with deportation.

Human Rights Watch claim in the brief that lawyers to represent immigrant minors in deportation hearings were not appointed by the US government and that the basic rights of the youngsters were therefore violated under the Immigration and Nationality Act and Fifth Amendment’s Due Process clause, which mandate the right to a full and fair hearing in front of an immigration judge.

The Human Rights Watch’s US immigration researcher, Clara Long, says that in deportation hearings thousands of underage immigrants have been having to stand up in front of judges and lawyers on their own and attempt to make a case as to why they should be able to remain in the United States without benefit of legal counsel, adding that the cases are “incredibly complex” with the very real threat of deportation being the consequence for losing.

The Department of Justice started to fast-track deportation cases back in 2014 following the surge in unaccompanied immigrant minors crossing the border, Human Rights Watch claim. Often the youngsters were deported following a single hearing without having the option of legal assistance.