Church-Based ‘Guardian Angels” Step Into Help ‘Border Kids’ Facing Deportation

A Los Angeles Times report highlights efforts of a Lutheran church group becoming de facto court watchers to make sure the “border kids” – those under-18 would-be immigrants from countries other than Mexico who recently flooded into the U.S. – understand their rights under American law. Advocates say the Justice Department courts that review cases are wildly uneven and outcomes depend largely on legal representation. Those charged in the courts do not have a right to an attorney because the cases are considered civil actions.
Reports the LAT: “Because the government does not provide lawyers to immigrants facing removal, many of the children have ended up navigating complex deportation proceedings alone. Last fiscal year, 72% of children in deportation hearings were not represented by an attorney, according to federal data analyzed by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.”
Leaders of the guardian angels program, notes the Times, include the Lutheran pastor “… who hatched the idea last summer after hearing that children’s deportation hearings were being fast-tracked through the court system. More than three-fourths of children’s court cases closed in the second half of last year resulted in removal orders, according to the federal Executive Office of Immigrant Review. In the vast majority of those cases, the deportation orders were issued in absentia because the children did not show up for their hearings.”