Immigrant Youth forced to represent themselves in immigration court hearings

Flikr| Photo credit: Sierra Romeo

Anti-Immigrant laws have gotten worse over the years. They are stricter, harsher and now they apply to everyone, including children. It is unfortunate that immigrant children are being smuggled illegally into the country. Yet, it is not uncommon that children do not make it their destination in the U.S. They are usually stopped by the border control.”From October through July, the authorities detained 21,842 unaccompanied minors, most at the Southwest border, a 48% increase over a year earlier.” And yet you would think that the children would not have to go through the long deportation process which includes detention centers and courts. The sad reality is that millions of immigrant children are going through all of this alone.

Youths [are posing] troubling difficulties for American immigration courts,” because immigrant children are being forced to represent themselves in court without a lawyer. Even though these children are immigrants and minors under the law, they don’t have any rights.  So why is our legal system, who supposedly strives to protect children, deprive them of any right to have equal representation in court?

The cruel reality is that young people have little chance of navigating the system without lawyers. “Parents often do not understand that their children, no matter how young, must attend court hearings or the judge can issue a final deportation order — the equivalent of a criminal arrest warrant — in absentia.”Children do now know what is going on when they are facing deportation and need the guidance, but they are often left alone to fight for their right to stay in the United States.

Also, the deportation process is very long and some children go weeks or even months before it is time for their court hearings. Some children are lucky if they get the help from organizations that provide lawyers, but in most cases this does not occur. So if the United States is the land of the free and equal opportunities, then why are we not letting young immigrants have the opportunity to obtain their American Dream? Do you think these immigrant children should be punished for being unaccompanied while crossing the border, or should we as a nation help protect the children that are alone?

3 responses to “Immigrant Youth forced to represent themselves in immigration court hearings

  1. I had no idea that so many young children are crossing the border unaccompanied, and am even more shocked by the fact that they have to go through court hearings completely alone. Aside from any laws or rights, I think that most people have to agree that basic morals tell us that young children should not be facing court hearings, especially when they have no idea what is going on. We also should look at the bigger picture and take into account the reasons for these young children’s migration. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in statistics and numbers, and forget that these are real people; in this case children. I think that any child risking such a dangerous trip across the border alone must have a good reason. Just because a child is missing a paper that makes them a U.S. citizen, shouldn’t mean that their rights as human beings should be forgotten. Something is seriously wrong if we are determining the rights of a child based on their legal status.

  2. I completely agree with you, Janet. It is appalling that the United States refuses to see the problems that are happening right inside our own country. It seems as if we need to focus on the human rights and social justice side of issues instead of worrying about whether someone is “legal” or not. It is terrifying to think about a minor–someone as young as we are–making the journey across the border alone. People of all ages are coming into our country for similar reasons: to find opportunities and a better life. The United States has always said that it strives to be a melting pot, a mixing of all cultures. Then why do we turn away young immigrants? These are the people who will make and continue to make our country a more diverse and cultural place to live.

  3. It is a shame that children who are unaccompanied in the United States should receive such poor representation in courts. Despite the “illegal” label placed on these minors, these children should not be left alone to fend for themselves. They are scared and in a land where it is a possibility that they do not understand the language. More representation should be given to these children even if it is through the willingness of non-profit organizations. These children should not go through the grueling process of the court system alone. The people of America are better than that.

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