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Federal Court to Consider the Deportation of Children without Attorneys

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing arguments in C.J.L.G v. Whitaker, a case addressing whether children in deportation have the right to court appointment attorneys.

Presently, pro se minors are being deported with little to no regard of the potentially life-threatening circumstances they are returning to in their home countries. The case being heard before the Ninth Circuit involves C.J., a 13 year-old Honduran national who fled his native country after being held at gunpoint and threatened with death if he did not join a local gang. Upon entering the United States, C.J. was placed into removal proceedings on his own, even though he entered the country with his mother.

In 2015 C.J. attempted to apply for asylum – without representation because he could not afford an attorney, leaving his asylum application filled with several incomplete with several errors. Had C.J. had the help of an immigration attorney, he would have known that he was eligible for other forms of relief such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.  But because he was not represented C.J. was ordered deported by the Immigration judge.

With the assistance of attorneys, C.J. appealed the decision claiming the immigration court violated his right to due process, because children cannot receive proper immigration hearings without attorney representation. A three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit upheld the courts decision that minors are not entitled to representation in immigration court. Earlier this year, the full Ninth Circuit court voted to withdraw the decision and reconsider the case in front of an 11 judge panel, also known as en banc (or the “entire bench”).

Although C.J. now has representation, there are thousands of children forced to to through immigration court without proper legal help, although the government always has trained attorneys arguing for their deportation. The Ninth Circuit now has a chance to reconsider children like C.J.

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