Once again Republicans have denied funding for the Justice Department to help child migrants obtain legal counsel when called before immigration courts to face deportation orders. They don’t need council, just send their illegal butts back home.
Records show more than 40 percent of the children — many under 14 years of age and with little understanding of English — are processed through the system now without counsel. That figure is expected to go higher given the crowded docket of deportation hearings this summer and immigrant rights advocates say the result is a denial of due process.
The DOJ already faces a federal suit in Seattle arguing that the children can’t get a fair hearing without legal counsel. In connection with that suit, a Sept. 3 court date has been set to hear arguments on a preliminary injunction seeking to block the government from proceedings with deportation hearings unless it first provides counsel.
Attorney General Eric Holder has been more expansive in proposing to use federal funds to assist in getting lawyers, but he has run into a wall with the House GOP.
The GOP has been willing to spend even more than Justice has asked for to install video-conferencing equipment in the immigration courts. But nothing to ensure the child migrant—on the other side of the screen—has legal counsel.
Save us taxpayers money, and just send them all back home.
Republicans stripped out all money for attorneys for the children in their most recent supplemental spending bill Aug. 1 to deal with the border crisis. In the latest skirmish, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) refused late last week to sign off on a subsequent DOJ request to transfer a reduced sum to expand legal orientation programs for the children and pay for lawyers.
All this means is more money for attorneys. They don’t give a rat’s behind about these kids, they see the Obama DACA, as a money maker.
Democrats and the administration had quietly hoped that Wolf — who has a long record as a human-rights advocate— might be willing to go along with the smaller request. But the Virginia Republican would only agree to those items that had been in the House-passed supplemental.
Justice had asked for a $13.2 million transfer of funds which would be redirected to meet three priority areas: $6.7 million for video-conferencing and translation services, $2.5 million to expand legal orientation programs, and $4 million to help hire attorneys for the unaccompanied child migrants.
Wolf approved the $13.2 million transfer but designated that up to $9.1 million go to video-conferencing and up to $4.1 million to bring on board temporary immigration judges to further expedite the deportation hearings. Nothing was included for legal orientation or providing counsel for the children.
There is precedent for Justice to ignore Wolf’s veto and simply go ahead with the transfer. But nothing in the department’s statement indicated that was contemplated soon.
“As the immigration court system prioritizes the cases of recent border crossers, including unaccompanied children, having legal counsel available for these children is an important part of the overall effort,” said a DOJ official in a statement late Sunday. “Involving lawyers at the beginning of the court process helps the system function much more efficiently.
“Without these funds,” he added, “Our efforts to prioritize these cases will be less efficient and effective and we will be left with a deportation process in which these children will be expected to represent themselves.”
In the federal case in Seattle, the plaintiffs are 6 kids from Guatamala. But the Sept. 3 court hearing is also expected to deal with arguments to establish a larger class-action case of national scope. And as the border debate has developed, the whole question of legal counsel has become more important politically.