US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who is based in Seattle, ruled on Monday that he was rejecting the motion by the federal Justice Department to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to ensure that legal representation is secured for undocumented minors facing deportation.
This legal battle is one of a number of similar cases regarding the handling of undocumented immigrants by the federal government after President Obama’s decision to take executive action to protect millions from deportation. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of siblings from El Salvador who had illegally crossed the border into the United States to flee gang violence.
Zilly was asked to dismiss the case by federal officials on jurisdictional grounds, arguing that the cost would be too high to expect the US government to pay for legal representation for immigration cases; however, Zilly decided that the request for legal counsel for the immigrants was merely an argument for due process and thus necessitated a legal response. “The Court is of the opinion the due process question plaintiffs have raised in this case is far too important to consign it, as defendants propose, to the perhaps perpetual loop of the administrative and judicial review process,” Zilly noted.
The use of detention centers by the federal government to hold undocumented immigrants has been repeatedly questioned by the American Civil Liberties Union.