A Federal Appeals Court in the 9th Circuit ruled unanimously on Monday that undocumented immigrant children are not entitled to free legal help and lawyers. This decision stems from a case in which an unidentified boy, C.J.L.G., was denied asylum. The boy and his mother fled Honduras when he was thirteen in 2014, due to gang threats. The Mara gang attempted to recruit the boy, and when he denied their requests, he was threatened at gunpoint. C.J.L.G. and his mother were apprehended four days after entering the United States in 2014.
Because C.J.L.G. was denied a lawyer for his deportation hearing, and had no money to obtain one, his mother filled out his asylum application and acted as his lawyer. According to the court, the application contained “threadbare statements in support of C.J.’s asylum claims,” and he was not granted asylum. The Appeals Court expressed sympathy for the boy’s case, but noted that Congress had not granted the privilege of legal aid to undocumented immigrants. Additionally, they referenced an already financially strained immigration system, and said that there is no money to spare for government-appointed lawyers.
The precedent set in this case is a serious loss for immigration activists, as government appointed lawyers for undocumented minors have been a pressing issue for years. The ACLU is said to be preparing to seek a reversal for this decision.
Our Verdict: Fleeing a dangerous situation in Honduras, C.J.L.G. should have had the opportunity to be granted asylum. Due to the complicated nature of his case, he needed adequate legal help and should have been granted a lawyer. The Federal Appeals Court’s decision will affect thousands of children in similar situations as C.J.L.G. We are hopeful that the ACLU will be successful in obtaining a reversal.