An appeals court in Seattle heard arguments Thursday in a far-reaching immigration case. The central question is whether minors who face deportation should be appointed lawyers at the government's expense.
The class-action case started two years ago. Immigrant advocates sued the Justice Department, challenging the fairness of deportation hearings for children without an attorney. Justice appealed, saying the issue is beyond the court's jurisdiction.
Tens of thousands of child migrants face deportation from the U.S. every year. Many are fleeing violence in Central America.
The three-judge panel, including Judge Milan Smith, appeared sympathetic.
Smith: “I must tell you I am moved by the plight of these children, I really am. But I’m really struggling with this statute.”
The federal government argues the current system already allows kids to individually request an attorney. But advocates say the process is unrealistic and ineffective because kids are too young to navigate it.