Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Monica Varsanyi

Subject Categories

Constitutional Law | Courts | Fourteenth Amendment | Government Contracts | Human Rights Law | Immigration Law | International Humanitarian Law | Judges | Law and Society | Legislation | Migration Studies | Politics and Social Change

Keywords

due process, immigration court, immigration law, legal representation, removal proceedings, unaccompanied minors

Abstract

Unaccompanied minors arriving to the United States fleeing violence and seeking protection are apprehended, detained in facilities, and placed in removal proceedings in accordance with U.S. immigration laws. Like adults, these children have to appear in immigration court to fight deportation and must apply for any form of legal relief for which they may be eligible. However, removal proceedings work as a civil and not a criminal process, and immigration laws have established that while noncitizens have the right to an attorney, they are not entitled to legal counsel at the government’s expense. This thesis examines how the denial of government appointed legal counsel in removal proceedings violates the rights and due process of these unaccompanied minors.

By exploring how language barriers, past trauma, socioeconomic factors, and lack of formal education makes it difficult for unaccompanied minors to navigate the immigration system, this paper argues that the government should recognize that undocumented children lack the competency and maturity to represent themselves and to fight deportation on their own. Moreover, through analysis of immigration policies and practices, this paper will demonstrate that making the current system child-friendly, along with guaranteeing government-funded access to counsel, will ensure that the best interests of unaccompanied minors are considered and their constitutional and human rights are protected. Finally, by comparing international standards and laws governing children's rights, this paper will emphasize that the United States government has to grant unaccompanied children the right to obtain legal representation at the government’s expense when they are facing deportation.

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