In Immigration Court, Kids Face Deportation Without An Attorney

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A federal judge in Seattle will hear arguments Thursday in a potentially far-reaching immigration case. The central question is whether children who face deportation should be entitled to government-appointed attorneys.

TRANSCRIPT:

Just a few months ago, Gustavo Gonzalez was one of these kids – in a Seattle courtroom, facing deportation, with no attorney to represent him.

Gonzalez (translated from Spanish): “I was afraid, I just didn’t know what was happening.”

Gonzalez dressed up for our interview – charcoal suit, striped tie. It’s the suit his aunt bought him for court. But most days he’s in a T-shirt and jeans, like other ninth graders at his high school.

He says his favorite subject is English. He dropped out of school in Guatemala after his father became sick with AIDS. At age 17, he crossed the border illegally.

Gonzalez got lucky in his legal case. He called the number on a brochure, and a pro bono attorney saw that he was eligible for a special visa. He now has a green card and wants to make it count.

Gonzalez: “I want to be someone in life. Seeing how difficult it was to get here, I want to make something of it.”

About 40,000 children like Gonzales pass through immigration court every year – at least in recent years. They’re minors and facing deportation on their own without a parent. Many came to the U.S. to escape gangs, poverty or violence in Central America.

Attorney Matt Adams is with the Northwest Immigration Rights Project in Seattle, one of the groups that filed this case. He says it boils down to constitutional rights and how you define a “fair hearing.”

Adams: “Is it just to have a child who’s there by themselves, maybe with an aunt who’s by their side, or a school teacher in the audience who brought them there? Do we really not care that they’re not in a position to present their case?”

The focus of this week’s hearing is class certification and whether this case can extend to all kids in immigration court who meet certain guidelines.

The Department of Justice has filed an appeal to dismiss the case.

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About Robert Perkins
Robert A. Perkins | Attorney at Law Robert A. Perkins is the sole partner and founder of Robert A. Perkins & Associates, PC. Since the establishment of the firm in 1994, Mr. Perkins' focus has been in Employment and Family Based Immigration. Mr. Perkins has represented many companies and individuals within the United States and abroad. His experience and knowledge of immigration have made him a nationally renowned attorney in his field. Immigration Attorney Robert A. Perkins is licensed and admitted in the State of Illinois and the US Supreme Court.

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