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Lawsuit: Immigrant Children Need a Voice in Court

Today Public Counsel and a coalition of groups filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit challenging the federal government's failure to provide legal representation for thousands of children who face deportation proceedings on their own. Many of these children have come to the United States from Central America fleeing violence or persecution.

The plaintiffs in J.E.F.M. v. Holder include siblings from El Salvador-10, 13, and 15 years old- whose father was murdered before their eyes; a 16-year-old boy from Honduras with special education needs who escaped the brutality exacted on his family; a 15-year-old boy originally from Mexico who has lived in the United States since he was about one year old; and a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador who was forced to flee her home country due to gang violence and threats.

Click here to read the press release and learn more at Publiccounsel.org

There's a crisis of justice in our immigration courts. Both the U.S. Constitution and immigration laws guarantee all children the right to a full and fair removal hearing. Each year the Government initiates immigration proceedings against thousands of minors who go to court without representation. Although a network of pro bono service providers has endeavored to represent as many of these children as possible, the majority of children appearing in immigration court still do so without an attorney. The government has an attorney in every case.

"Each day, we are contacted by children in desperate need of lawyers to advocate for them in their deportation proceedings,"said Kristen Jackson, senior staff attorney with Public Counsel and a national expert on legal issues facing immigrant children. "Pro bono efforts have been valiant, but they will never fully meet the increasing and complex needs these children present. The time has come for our government to recognize our Constitution's promise of fairness and its duty to give these children a real voice in court." 

J.E.F.M. v. Holder was filed today in U.S. District Court in Seattle by attorneys from Public Counsel, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, and K&L Gates LLP. 

Click here to read the complaint and learn more at our website

Selected Press Clips

Associated Press: Groups: Immigrant minors need deportation lawyers

National Journal: Here's How Hard It Is for Unaccompanied Minors to Get Asylum

KCRW Press Play (interview with Public Counsel attorney Kristen Jackson)

Center for Public Integrity: Class-action suit: Wrong to put kids into immigration court with no lawyers to help

89.3 KPCC: Legal groups sue feds to get representation for migrant children

La Opinion: Niños, sin abogado y solos ante el sistema estadounidense

Daily Beast: The Immigrant Kids Suing America

KPFK Truthdig Radio (interview with Public Counsel attorney Talia Inlender)