Teenage Immigrants Are Being Denied Asylum Because They Have No Right to an Attorney

Between 2014 and 2015, 49 percent of minors in immigration court had no legal aid, according to data compiled by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
News Story (NATIONAL)

Meredith Hoffman
April 12, 2016

Tags: Asylum, Deportation, Immigration Process


The whole mess could’ve been solved with legal assistance—but at the time of his court date, Portillo, like nearly half of immigrant youths who enter the country, had no attorney to argue on his behalf.


With the surge of asylum-seekers entering the United States from Central America due to skyrocketing murder rates and gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the government is paying new attention to the issue. In late February, House Democrats proposed the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, a bill that would ensure legal counsel for immigrant youths. (No votes on the bill have taken place yet.)

“We are talking about children running for their lives in many instances,” one of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Luis Guitierrez, said in a press release about the bill. “We need to make sure they have access to a lawyer, translator, and a fair chance to navigate the American legal system so that they can get justice if they qualify for asylum and are fighting deportation.”