Good News in NWIRP’s Ongoing Efforts to Protect Children in Deportation Proceedings

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Each week, in immigration courts across the United States, hundreds of children come before immigration judges and are forced to represent themselves against deportation. Many of these children qualify for protections under our laws that would allow them to stay in the United States but do not have access to an attorney to make their case to a judge. And this is all because of one of the starkest examples of injustice in our immigration system: the fact that children facing deportation hearings are not entitled to an appointed attorney when their families or caretakers cannot afford one.

To fight back against this injustice, NWIRP has been working with our partners at the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates, on a set of cases that ask federal courts to find that it is a violation of a child’s rights to be ordered deported by an immigration judge in a hearing in which they were not represented by an attorney.

In January of this year, we faced a significant setback in this effort. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against our client, stating that it would not require appointed counsel for children facing deportation, even in cases where the children have no other access to legal representation.

But we didn’t back down. Together with our partners, we appealed the panel’s troubling decision to the full Ninth Circuit. And last week we received some very good news.

The Ninth Circuit decided it will rehear our case later this year.

The court took the rare step of withdrawing the earlier decision by three judges, and said an eleven-judge panel, sitting en banc, would reconsider the case. The Ninth Circuit receives about 1,500 petitions for rehearing en banc each year and only grants rehearing in about 15 to 25 of those cases. Taking these numbers into consideration, the Court’s decision acknowledges the importance of the issue.

Now more than ever it is essential that the Court clarifies whether it is fair for children to be forced to stand alone in front of an immigration judge, opposed by a federal prosecuting attorney. We look forward to continuing our struggle for justice for all children who seek refuge in the United States. Thank you for your support of these efforts.