The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Migrant children face discrimination in legal services

Amy Sandoval
Illustration by Amy Sandoval

Migrant children face discrimination in legal services Migrant children who are left unaccompanied to represent themselves in court are often without an attorney and health care. When they are located near the border of the U.S., they are sent to federal shelters where they are placed with other children.

Migrant children who travel with family are then separated and are not allowed to stay in contact with their parents or siblings, sometimes never seeing them again. Many migrants, children included, from places all around the world come to the U.S. fleeing from danger or seeking a better future.

The U.S. typically provides and offers both health care and attorneys to all individuals in the country who face prosecution. According to the Vera Institute, the Sixth Amendment states that all individuals accused of criminal prosecutions are provided attorneys except in cases of deportation. Migrant minors have a right to hire an attorney, but those unable to afford or locate one face deportation.

Deportation means children are forced to go back into unsafe conditions, child abuse, or abandonment from which they fled. Children can stay in the country if they are represented by an attorney or are facing danger in their country.

In most cases, children are unable to present their unsafe conditions without an attorney, due to the lack of legal services provided by court officials.

In some cases, migrant children also do not understand what a judge is, or what they should or shouldn’t disclose, due to language barriers. There have been cases in which children attend immigration court unaware of what will happen next.

These children are most often between the ages of 1 and 14 years old. Not all children receive an education or have language development. Some of these children can’t speak for themselves due to their age or development.

This contributes to minors not being aware of their rights and legal pathways to remain in the country. No minor can understand and process legal services on their own, legally speaking.

A child is not made aware of where they will go or if they will see family members again. Court officials should not expect minors to represent themselves without any attorney or legal sponsors.

The Texas Tribune reported that nearly 130,000 migrant children traveled to the U.S. without a guardian and were detained in federal shelters in 2022. In these federal shelters, they face unsafe conditions such as a lack of nutrition, diseases, and no personal care. They are usually in small, crowded rooms with no air conditioner or heater.

Once released to sponsors, they face difficult situations with language barriers and medical resources. Children come to these federal shelters not knowing they may never return home, due to diseases that cause death, or even reach adulthood.

The U.S. should provide attorneys or legal sponsors to these children. More organizations like Kids in Need of Defense, or KIND, should be created to help unaccompanied children throughout their immigration journey. KIND is an organization that represents migrant children and provides health resources to ensure a child’s safety.

The government should help fund organizations that provide children with attorneys and health care resources. Members of the community should become aware of this growing issue and fund organizations to provide migrant children with resources. No child should be left alone to represent themselves in a courtroom in the land of opportunity.

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