Connecticut Law Review Volume 46 - Issue 2

Perpetually Turning Our Backs to the Most Vulnerable: A Call for the Appointment of Counsel for Unaccompanied Minors in Deportation Proceedings

The rate of young illegal migrants crossing the United States’ borders has reached unprecedented levels. Many children are fleeing their home countries in order to escape gang violence or to reunite with their family in the United States. Others are being smuggled into the country without any comprehension of the migration. In 2012, the United States Border Patrol apprehended a staggering 31,029 minors. An astonishing seventy-nine percent of them were seized without parental or legal guardians, thereby becoming known as “unaccompanied minors” within the immigration system. In immigration court, all illegal immigrants are denied the right to appointed legal counsel in deportation proceedings. Thus, many unaccompanied minors, all under the age of eighteen, appear pro se before immigration judges. After offering some background regarding unaccompanied minors and the history of their treatment under
immigration law, this Note argues that these minors should be afforded the same legal rights as minors in juvenile court. Specifically, unaccompanied minors should be afforded the right to appointed legal counsel in order to protect their due process rights. The sheer statistics and basic injustices warrant a policy change in the immigration system. The immigration court has already acknowledged the specific vulnerability of unaccompanied minors and must take the next logical step in protecting their due process rights.

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