Late Friday afternoon, we made an important step forward in our case seeking to require the federal government to provide attorneys for all children facing deportation.
Federal Judge Thomas Zilly in Seattle has just granted our request for class certification, meaning that our case has grown from around a dozen named plaintiffs to a case involving thousands of children facing deportation without an attorney.
Although Judge Zilly did not grant our request for a nationwide class, he did extend the class to the Ninth Circuit, which is the largest in the country (and includes the states of Washington, California, and Arizona). We feel confident that a ruling in this western region would still have a national impact.
The lawsuit, which was filed alongside several partners, has been in litigation for over two years. When asked why this class certification is so important, Legal Director Matt Adams said:
“The government will not be able to simply delay the case in hoping that a few individual cases may resolve themselves without court intervention. Instead, the government must now defend a system that pits unrepresented children against trained federal prosecutors in an adversarial court hearing that literally may carry life and death consequences for the children involved.”
The class covers all children under 18 who are in immigration proceedings in the Ninth Circuit on or after June 24, 2016, lack counsel, are unable to afford legal representation, and are potentially eligible for asylum.
Much work remains before we reach our goal of ensuring that no child has to face a deportation hearing before an immigration judge on their own – even though the government is always represented by an attorney – but this is a big step forward.
In their coverage of this story, the Seattle Times
noted, “testimony and court documents indicate that many of the children involved [in this case] have traveled from countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala, where they have faced persecution. Two of the plaintiffs — all of whom are identified in the lawsuit only by initials — claim they fled to the U.S. after their father was murdered and their mother raped.” We are hopeful that this case will help more children like these find safety and stability in the United States.
We are so grateful for you and our entire community of support who have stood alongside us to make this effort possible.
To learn more, you can read Judge Zilly’s order here