The case, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, is a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington which alleges that U.S. Federal agencies with immigration-related responsibilities failed to provide a "full and fair hearing" under the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment to the influx of children migrating to the U.S. from several Central American countries.
The plaintiffs of the case are:
- A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.
- A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.
- A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.
- A 16-year-old boy born in Mexico who has lived here since he was 1 year old and has had lawful status since June 2010.
- A 16-year-old boy with limited communication skills and special education issues who escaped brutal violence exacted on his family in Honduras, and who has lived in Southern California since he was 8 years old.
- A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent resident father in Los Angeles.
Each of these plaintiffs is currently scheduled to appear before an immigration judge for a hearing on removability. None of the plaintiffs are afforded an attorney. U.S. law states that criminal defendants are afforded an attorney at the expense of the government, but that is not the case in immigration court.
"It is simply unacceptable that children are forced to stand alone before an immigration judge, pitted against trained attorneys from the federal government," said Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. "Any notion of justice or fair play requires that these children be provided legal representation." (from the American Immigration Council).
Brandon Gillin is an immigration lawyer with Genesis Law Firm, PLLC in Everett, Washington.