The federal government continues to struggle with a flood of immigrant children arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico. Today, a class-action suit filed in Seattle seeks additional legal help for these and all other children who face possible deportation.
Most immigrants in deportation proceedings do not have a right to an attorney. The nation-wide lawsuit seeks to change that for children.
Matt Adams is an attorney with the NW Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, one of the lead groups bringing this case against the U.S. government.
One of the plaintiffs Adams represents is a 10-year-old boy who fled gang violence in El Salvador.
“And he’s sitting here in our office with his toy, playing with his toy, playing with is Etch-A-Sketch, not even really able to understand what we’re talking about; not able to understand that he has to go in front of a judge to try to defend himself from deportation," Adams said.
According to Adams, thousands of kids face this same situation every year, and the government acknowledges many of these children could qualify for asylum or other protections here.
“But without legal representation, they don’t have – as a practical matter – any chance of succeeding,” he said.
Adams estimates about half of the children who face deportation do not have an attorney. But it’s unclear how many more lawyers the government would need to provide to meet the demands of this lawsuit. The government is due to file its initial response to the suit later this month.