Immigration Illustrates Civil Vs. Criminal Rights

One huge advantage the U.S. Government has in deporting children who arrived in the country, perhaps illegally, is the difference between civil and criminal charges. The National Public Radio stories that have helped shine a spotlight on Central American children being held in jail-like conditions notes that “… the immigration court system is complicated, and many children do not have the benefit of an attorney. The government is not required to provide legal representation, as in criminal cases, because immigration is a civil matter.”

NPR offers an example of what that means: “… according to immigration lawyers, if a child is picked up by Border Patrol in Texas, the venue for the first court appearance would likely be in the Lone Star State, even if the child has since been reunited with her family in Iowa. As a result, many children miss court deadlines and are automatically placed in deportation proceedings.”

NPR also explains that “… immigration court is a traditionally adversarial process, with a prosecutor who usually makes the case that a child should be deported and, in the best case, a lawyer representing the child. But if the child has no lawyer, there is little chance that she or he will be able to stay, even if they have a valid asylum claim.”