Monday, a federal appeals court unanimously decided that minor immigrants who enter the country illegally are not entitled to government-paid lawyers in deportation hearings.
In a sweeping vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an immigration judge's decision to deny asylum to a minor identified only as C.J.L.G who left Honduras at the age of 13 and entered the United States illegally.
The boy did not have an attorney to represent him and his mother could not find any lawyer willing to take the case pro bono. According to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, federal law does not guarantee paid lawyers for children in immigration court.
The court also ruled that the teenage boy failed to show that he needed a lawyer to safeguard his rights. "Mandating free court-appointed counsel could further strain an already overextended immigration system," Judge Consuelo M. Callahan said.
Callahan was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003 and her decision was a blow to immigration rights activists who want anyone and everyone to be able to come to America and get free stuff regardless of their immigration status.
Ahilan Arulanantham, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, said, "It is a brutal decision. 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."
The ACLU and other organizations have tried without success to get lawyers for minors through class-action lawsuits. In Monday's ruling, the 9th Circuit expressed sympathy for C.J.L.G. but said the law did not support him.
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