Is a Child Entitled to an Attorney in Immigration Court?

With discussion of immigration appearing frequently in the news media, and given the tenor of coverage of related issues, it’s no surprise that disagreement and debate have come to encompass nearly every corner of immigration law in some way or another. But an ongoing case that’s playing out in federal court in Seattle may be poised to take the debate surrounding the rights of children in removal proceedings to the next level.

The case centers on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a number of immigration rights groups, who argue that minor children have the constitutional right to an attorney in immigration court, thus ensuring a fair hearing. Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), however, dispute this, with one official claiming that he has been able to “[train] three-year-olds and four-year-olds in immigration law,” a process that he admits is time-consuming but which he says passes the bar for fairness.

Reaction to these claims has been mixed. While the DOJ argues that the statement was taken out of context, the ACLU attorney whose