Lawyers fear speedy deportations harm minors
Lawyers who work with unaccompanied, illegal child migrants in Chicago are raising the alarm over new fast-track deportations, saying the process may result in a denial of due process in court. Referring to the expedited schedulings as the “rocket docket,” many fear that children may be scheduled for court hearings so quickly that they may not have time to find lawyers, or if they do, their lawyers will not have enough time to craft a defense case. Ultimately, this could result in more children returning to the dangerous environments that they’d fled.
“We somehow got notice of hearings that they had been scheduled to attend in Chicago on a Monday, and this was on a Thursday or Friday when they contacted us, ” said Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “We thought it was a fluke or a glitch in the system.”
The NIJC helps thousands of immigrant children that pass through federal shelters in Chicago. Koop said kids who arrived in the Spring originally had seven or eight months between the time the Department of Homeland Security filed a Notice to Appear in Chicago’s immigration court, and the “master calendar hearing,” which signals the opening of removal proceedings against an immigrant. But those hearings have suddenly been moved up several months, to August.
“That’s not a lot of time to secure an attorney, begin to develop case theory, start to strategize about how this case ought to be prepared and presented moving forward,” said Koop.
In fact, Koop said scores of children whose master calendar hearings were moved up had not even received notice of the change.
“We very quickly learned a lot of the children weren’t aware they had these hearings,” she said, “either because the notices hadn’t reached them yet or because the notices had been sent to an incorrect address.”
The address discrepancies were likely because the child had been reunited with family elsewhere in the country shortly after the Notice to Appear had been filed in Chicago.
“We’ve really shifted gears and our whole staff is just calling all of these kids that are on dockets, and trying to figure out where they are, and letting them know they have court,” she said. Koop said NIJC attorneys have been getting permission from the children to move to change venue for the children’s cases. On one day earlier this month, they filed 200 motions for change of venue on behalf of kids that once, but no longer, were sheltered in Chicago.
The U.S. is dealing with record numbers of unaccompanied children coming across the Southwest border. In the ten months leading up to August, nearly 63,000 were caught. More than three-quarters come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Koop said nearly 60 percent of the children that the NIJC screens in Chicago shelters are eligible for asylum, or some other form of protection against removal.
“Our concern is that there is a compromise of due process when they’re required to press forward with a case before they’re able to fully prepare it, before they’re able to have any opportunity to recover from whatever trauma or negative experience gave rise to the need for them to flee,” she said.
Attorneys who work with unaccompanied minors say trauma, and deep emotional distress, is common among child migrants.
Source URL: http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715
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