Do Immigrant Children Deserve Due Process?

Due process is the bedrock of our legal system in the United States. Based on the guiding principle that every free person is entitled to adequate notice of a charge or grievance and a fair opportunity to be heard, due process encompasses fairness in both legal proceedings (procedural due process) and the application of laws (substantive due process). So important is due process to our democratic system that it is embodied in the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the eyes of the law, children are persons entitled to due process. Thus, one would expect that children appearing in our courts would receive due process including proper advance notice of a hearing and the right to a lawyer or attorney if they are accused of a crime or unlawful behavior. But is this true when we are talking about unaccompanied immigrant children? Recent evidence from Atlanta immigration courtrooms suggests not, as case after case involving unrepresented minors is heard at a remarkably fast pace.

Busy Court JudgeIn the last eighteen months, there has been a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of these children work alongside their families to scrape together every last cent to pay their way across the border in search for freedom from oppression and the promise of a better life. With their home countries being torn apart by gang violence and poverty, the hope of reuniting with family members is what keeps many of them going.

Where do unaccompanied minor immigrants go?

Upon crossing the border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turns unaccompanied minors over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is up to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to locate a parent, relative, friend of the family, or sponsor to help care for the minor until the time of their deportation proceedings.

What’s the connection with Atlanta?

While the surge of unaccompanied minors has made national headlines, it is very present here in Georgia and Atlanta. Over 1,400 unaccompanied minors have landed in the metro Atlanta area while awaiting their fate. The immigration courts seem to be pushing these cases through the courts at an alarming rate. In many cases, unaccompanied immigrant children are not represented and complex cases can get dismissed in the midst. Non-profit immigration lawyers who are willing to donate their time try and help unaccompanied children with valid legal grounds to stay. However, if cases are pushed through the courts at break-neck speed and legal counsel is not available or cannot devote the necessary time to dig deeper into individual cases, many children will fall through the cracks and be returned to the same terrible conditions they fled from.

At Brownstein & Nguyen we do not claim to have all of the answers regarding the current immigration situations. We do however, have years of experience as Atlanta immigration lawyers to offer unaccompanied children and their families seeking answers and representation. The immigration attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have successfully made a difference in the lives of countless individuals needing help with immigration law cases over the years. Contact our Atlanta immigration law offices today.