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New Study Finds Only one in Three Unaccompanied Children has Legal Representation in Immigration Court

First Posted: Sep 28, 2016 11:28 AM EDT
U.S. Agents Take Undocumented Immigrants Into Custody Near Tex-Mex Border

Photo : Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Roughly just one in three unaccompanied children entering the U.S. illegally are represented by an attorney by the time they make their way to the Immigration Courts system.

A new Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University analysis finds that of the 63,721 such cases as of late October 2014 only 32 percent of the youths had legal representation. In addition of the 21,588 cases involving children that have been adjudicated since the surge of minors pouring into the U.S. from Central America since 2012, only 41 percent had representation.

Over the last decade or so, TRAC officials have deemed the distinction of having an attorney or not as the most significant factor impacting a case's outcome. More precisely, researchers found in 73 percent of all the cases where the child was legally represented the court system allowed the youth to remain in the U.S., compared to just 12 percent of legally represented defendants who were ordered removed.

In instances where the child was not represented by an attorney, only 15 percent were allowed to remain in the country, while all the rest were ordered deported in one form or another. Cases were children were not legally represented also tended to move through the court system at a faster pace than others.

Immigration Court
(Photo : Photo: Getty Images/Sarah L. Voisin)
New study finds only one in three unaccompanied children have legal representation in immigration court.

Still, the Los Angeles Times reports the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a legal challenge filed on behalf of hundreds of unnamed immigrant minors seeking to legally compel the federal government to provide them with legal representation throughout the process. Currently, the law stipulate that legal representation be supplied to those embroiled in immigration proceedings.

In rendering his recent ruling, Judge M. Margaret McKeon stressed that the government has the ability to alter the system without taking any legal action. While six states make up about half of all the pending cases across the country, New York City heads the list with roughly 12 percent of all litigations, followed by Houston, Virginia, Los Angeles, Baltimore and San Francisco.

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