News Story, Video (California, INTERNATIONAL, New Mexico, Texas, Washington)
July 11, 2014
Link to day transcript (long)
Tags: Children & Juvenile, Immigration Process, Legal Needs
Organizations mentioned/involved: RAICES (Texas)
JONATHAN RYAN, OFFERS LEGAL COUNSELING TO IMMIGRANTS: Well, my organization Raices has been working inside of the unaccompanied minors shelters that are maintained by Health and Human Services since 2008. So we literally are working inside of these facilities.
We were the first non-for-profit inside of any of the Department of Defense facilities that are being rented out to Health and Human Services. We are now in our fifth week working inside of Lackland. So we’re meeting these children inside of the detention centers that they’re being held.
KEILAR: So if you’re dealing with this crisis, we’re talking about undocumented minors, how do you give legal counsel to a child in a situation like this, a 5-year-old, for example?
RYAN: Right. Well, differently from our criminal court system, individuals who are in the immigration court system have no right to — assigned counsel by the government. So what we have is a situation where non-for-profit organizations like Raices are left to try to fill this gap by providing representation ourselves or attempting to identify pro bono attorneys in the community who can help represent these children.
Now when we work with older children, they can assist us to prepare their defense and explain what it is they want us to do as their counsel, but when you speak about a child as young as 5, you identify a situation where you have a young person who fundamentally does not understand the nature and purposes of this immigration court system, who potentially cannot assist their attorney at all in preparing their defense.
So you have a system that can grind to a halt really as you see a prosecutor on one chair and the judge there up at the bench, and a 5- year-old whose head barely peeks over the brass buttons of her chair who really has no wherewithal at all as to the system that she’s in or the ability to advocate for herself.
So as we talk about the billions of dollars that are being requested and being poured into the deportation system we must understand that this is an extremely resource-intensive prosecutorial system that really may not be appropriate for the treatment of refugee orphans.