Representation Matters No Child Should Appear in Immigration Proceedings Alone

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Each year, thousands of immigrant children are placed into court proceedings in which government prosecutors seek to deport them unless those children can prove they have a right to stay in the United States. Many face these immigration proceedings alone. Many children have legal options that establish their ability to remain in the United States, but these options are nearly impossible to access without the assistance of trained attorneys. Unfortunately, although the right to be represented by legal counsel is recognized in immigration proceedings, the right to appointed counsel is not. Children who are unable to find free counsel or afford private counsel must navigate the immigration system alone. This fact sheet outlines why universal, publicly funded representation for children in immigration proceedings is urgently needed.

Key Takeaway

Despite the complexity and high stakes of immigration proceedings, they remain a setting where children lack the most critical guarantee of their rights: court-appointed counsel.

Publication Highlights

  • The training and expertise of an immigration attorney—ideally an attorney with a trauma-informed practice and access to integrated social services—is critically important for children in immigration proceedings.

  • The person in removal proceedings must determine the legal options they can pursue, interact with government agencies, collect evidence, call witnesses, and make legal arguments against trained government attorneys.

  • What is extremely challenging for an adult is nearly impossible for a child. Several legal options available to children involve processes outside of immigration court, making their cases more complex.

Key Facts