Unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in the United States are entitled to a full hearing before an immigration judge to determine if they have a legal claim to remain in the U.S. Unfortunately, as has been reported again and again, many children around the country appear before immigration judges without attorney representation. Multiple reports, including a 2014 Pew Hispanic Research Center study and ongoing data collected by the Syracuse University, have shown that representation is the single most important factor influencing a case’s outcome. From FY 2012 through FY 2014, 73% of children who were represented by attorneys when appearing before an immigration judge were allowed to remain in the United States. By comparison, only 15% of children appearing without attorney representation were allowed to remain in the United States – 80% were ordered deported.
Last week, a senior Justice Department official and immigration judge, Jack H. Weil, stated in a deposition that that 3- and 4-year-olds can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves in court. His statements have brought a renewed focus onto the issue of representation for unaccompanied immigrant children.
Collaborative Executive Committee member and Director of the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic, Geoffrey Hoffman, recently published a response to Judge Weil’s statement. You can read his full response here.