Refuge-seeking kids face deportation hearings alone

Voices' ED Bergmark spotlights the work of civil legal aid attorneys, and calls for more resources so thousands of unaccompanied migrant children do not face complicated, high-stakes legal proceedings alone.

Op-Ed (California, Massachusetts, NATIONAL, Texas, Washington)

Martha Bergmark
September 4, 2014
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Tags: Children & Juvenile, Immigration Process, Language Access, Pro Bono

Organizations mentioned/involved: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) (Washington State), RAICES (Texas), Public Counsel (Los Angeles), Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), Voices for Civil Justice


Civil legal aid is critical to ensuring that unaccompanied immigrant children are treated fairly in deportation proceedings.

It’s mind-boggling that children are coming before judges alone while the federal government is represented by trained attorneys, as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project legal director Matt Adams recently pointed out. These children, many of whom don’t speak English, simply can’t get a fair hearing without legal representation.

Fortunately, civil legal aid programs are working closely with private pro bono lawyers to ensure that more children will have legal representation and understand their rights. But more resources are needed to ensure that thousands of children do not face these complicated, high-stakes legal proceedings alone.

But the civil legal aid community has come forward to help the unaccompanied children who lack legal counsel and adequate resources.