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A federal court has ruled – unanimously – that illegal immigrant children are not entitled to government-paid attorneys during their deportation case.
The three-judge panel of the liberal Ninth Circuit upheld a previous immigration judge’s ruling to deny asylum to an illegal immigrant minor who left Honduras at 13 after being threatened by local gangs.
The boy, named C.J.L.G. in court documents, did not have a lawyer and his mother was unable to get pro-bono legal services.
The Ninth Circuit said that federal law does not guarantee state-paid defense attorneys for children in immigrant court and that the boy failed to show he needed a lawyer to safeguard his rights.
“Mandating free court-appointed counsel could further strain an already overextended immigration system,” wrote Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.
The decision was a shocker to immigration activists, who have tried for years to get lawyers for juveniles facing deportation.
“It is a brutal decision,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California. “It is brutal for him and also brutal for thousands of other children who have fled three of the most violent countries on Earth — Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.”
He told the Los Angeles Times that most of the minors facing deportation proceedings without lawyers came to the U.S. to escape violence in those three countries.
In the ruling – handed down Monday – the Ninth…