Study: Nearly Half of All Illegal Minors With Lawyers Got to Stay

Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 08:21 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Among the flood of unaccompanied children who've illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, those who have a lawyer are more likely to show up in immigration court — and be allowed to legally stay, a new study shows.

Nearly half of all minors represented by lawyers in immigration court in the past decade eventually won permission to remain, according to the report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a project at Syracuse University that gathers and analyzes federal data. 

But nine out of 10 without attorneys were sent back to their home countries, the study found.

Though the youngsters fleeing from Central America are entitled by law to court hearings before they can be deported, they aren't entitled to lawyers, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The study findings could further fuel the debate in Congress over whether to expedite deportations — a process that would give fewer children a chance to obtain legal representation — amid the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America putting pressure on an already stressed immigration court system, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

"It helps the immigration judges tremendously when people are represented by attorney," Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told The Journal.

"It's even more important when you have children or juveniles in the process."

More than 57,000 children been picked up this fiscal year for crossing illegally into the country, with the total expected to hit 90,000 by year's end. 

Currently, it can take years for a child's case to be adjudicated, and The Journal notes the delays reinforce perceptions in in Central America that children who make it to the United States can stay.

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