WASHINGTON, August 6 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova - Human Rights Watch expressed concerns on Tuesday over the new procedures aimed at speeding up deportation hearings for unaccompanied child migrants from Central America.
"We are deeply concerned by reports that the Obama administration is speeding up court proceedings for child migrants without taking into consideration the severe challenges children face to applying for asylum and other protections in a complex legal system,” Grace Meng, senior researcher in the US Program at Human Rights Watch told RIA Novosti.
According to the new federal policies, children are now getting an initial hearing within three weeks after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials file a deportation case against them. Before, it could take months. However, the new procedures have raised concerns among advocates and human rights activists. And the main concern is finding competent representation.
“Children who cannot afford an attorney have no right to one, and it can be extremely difficult to find pro bono counsel,” Meng explained, adding that it can also take time to obtain evidence and develop an application.
“Children should not wait years for a day in court, but simply sending them to court quickly could result in the deportation of many who have valid claims for protection.”
Meng believes that the Obama administration is under pressure to deport children as quickly as possible, but they cannot do so under US and international law without giving them a day in court.
“The obligation to ensure children have a real chance to present their cases, however, cannot be met by hasty procedures in which children are forced to navigate the process without an attorney,” she asserted.
Tens of thousands of undocumented Central American migrant children have poured into the United States intensifying the humanitarian crisis on the Southwest border. Last month US President Barack Obama pledged to speed up the process of sending back illegal immigrants.
Meng stressed that the long wait in the US immigration court needs to be reduced for all immigrants, not just children.
“The US government can make the process both more efficient and fairer if they increase access to legal representation for immigrants and increase the number of immigration judges,” she concluded.