A federal court gave class action status Monday to a lawsuit suing for Fifth Amendment protections for illegal immigrant children.
The lawsuit, J.E.F.M v Lynch, claims the federal government should give children facing deportation hearings in immigration courts a lawyer, according to a press release from the ACLU. J.E.F.M v Lynch states the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services infringe on the “due process” clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act by not providing lawyer for the children.
“The court’s order recognizes the challenges that immigrant children share and it puts us closer to a day when no child will have to face an immigration judge alone,” said Kristen Jackson, senior staff attorney at Public Counsel.
ACLU, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP all filed the lawsuit together. The lawsuit extends protections to all children under 18 in the 9th Circuit starting June 24, 2016, children who cannot afford a lawyer, children who might be able to get asylum, and children who might be able to claim themselves as U.S. citizens.
According to Human Rights Watch, the DOJ ordered immigration courts to “fast track” deportation cases of recently arrived illegal immigrants. As a result, children often appeared before a judge without legal representation.
“This is great news for thousands of children who can now join our lawsuit against a government forcing them to go to immigration court alone. Under no circumstances should children be forced to represent themselves against trained prosecutors seeking their deportation,” said Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council.
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