Syracuse University Shedding Light On Lawyers For Unaccompanied Refugee Children

A Syracuse University study is offering timely information on how many of those unaccompanied border-crossing children are getting representation: about 48 percent. The International Business Times is citing the study in saying that “… data further estimates that only 31 percent of children with pending immigration cases have secured attorneys. Meanwhile, a prosecutor from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is always present at hearings to represent the government.”

Explains the IBT: “Because immigration courts are civil courts, not criminal, defendants are not offered a government-appointed attorney to help argue their cases. And because so many undocumented immigrants – particularly in this latest wave of Central American children – cannot afford a private attorney, pro bono legal services often step in to provide counseling and representation. But Beth Werlin, deputy director at the American Immigration Council, says the high demand for these pro bono services has stretched the resources of available attorneys.”

Furthermore, she added, location makes a difference in getting access to pro bono services – which leaves the probability of securing an attorney up to chance. “Certain parts of the country have less-developed networks,” she said. “And putting detention facilities in remote areas means there’s not a network of lawyers available for the children.”