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New Data Concludes Unaccompanied Children Lack Legal Representation During Immigration Court and Removal Proceedings

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A new factsheet published by AILA and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provides statistics on the representation and removal of unaccompanied children and families facing removal proceedings before immigration court. The data concludes that an overwhelming number of unaccompanied children and families are ordered removed from the United States, despite having demonstrated a legitimate fear of persecution or torture and passing a credible fear interview, making these individuals viable candidates for asylum, prosecutorial discretion, or other relief from deportation. This is due to a lack of legal representation and legitimate concern for the due process of law.

Families Passing Credible Fear in preliminary interviews with federal asylum officers

On the whole, the majority of families in detention centers demonstrate a legitimate fear of persecution or torture and maintain a high rate of approval during credible fear interviews;

  • In preliminary interviews with asylum officers, approximately 90% of families successfully demonstrated a credible fear of persecution or torture;
  • Upon completion of these interviews, approximately 88% of detained families pass their credible fear interviews;
  • The USCIS Asylum Office has indicated that the credible fear passage rates remain unchanged—at a rate of 90%;
  • DHS data indicates that 53% of 121 individuals, arrested by DHS during the January raids, lacked legal representation before immigration court;

Representation Rates for Unaccompanied Children

On the whole, an overwhelming number of unaccompanied children lack legal representation during their immigration court proceedings and removal proceedings.

  • Approximately 50% of unaccompanied children lacked legal representation throughout immigration court proceedings;
  • Of 84,174 total cases, only 42,708 children were represented by legal counsel (50.6 %) while 41,457 lacked legal representation altogether;
  • Of 33,874 cases that have since been completed, only 17,675 (52.2%) were represented by legal counsel;

Representation Rates for Unaccompanied Children Ordered Removed

An overwhelming number of children ordered removed from the United States lacked legal representation.

The majority of children who were subsequently ordered removed from the United States, with cases beginning in fiscal year 2014 or 2015, lacked legal counsel at a rate of 89.2%;

  • According to TRAC, of 33,874 cases since completed, 15,698 resulted in an order for removal;
  • Of these total cases, 14,009 (89.2%) unaccompanied children lacked representation, and only 1,689 (10.8%) had representation;

Representation Rates for Unaccompanied Children Ordered Removed in Absentia

An overwhelming number of children ordered removed from the United States in Absentia also lacked legal representation.

  • 96.6% of children with cases beginning in fiscal year 2014 or fiscal year 2015, received a removal order in absentia. These children were not represented by legal counsel;
  • Of 13,526 absentia removal orders issued, the overwhelming majority (96.6% or 13,067) were not represented by legal counsel;

Overall Representation Rates for Families

What about Families? On the whole, an overwhelming number of families in removal proceedings before immigration court lack legal representation.

  • Fewer than 30% of families, whose cases began in either fiscal year 2014 or fiscal year 2015, were represented by legal counsel throughout immigration court proceedings;
  • TRAC data confirms that of 21,438 cases since completed, only 21.4% (or 4,557) had legal representation;
  • Of 97,263 cases during fiscal year 2014 or fiscal year 2015, only 27.4% (or 26,665) had legal representation;

Representation Rates for Families Ordered Removed

  • Of all family cases beginning in fiscal year 2014 or 2015 which resulted in an order for removal, 86% lacked legal representation;
  • TRAC data confirms that of 18,464 removal orders issued, the overwhelming majority of families were unrepresented at a rate of 86% (or 15, 890);

Representation Rates for Families Ordered Removed in Absentia

  • Of all family cases beginning in fiscal year 2014 or 2015, resulting in the issuance of a removal order in absentia, the overwhelming majority lacked legal representation at a rate of 96.8%;
  • TRAC data confirms that of 15, 232 removal orders in absentia, 14,751 or 96.8% of families lacked legal representation.

Data provided by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University derived from monthly reports of EOIR data and data from EOIR and USCIS.

If you or a family member is facing removal proceedings, please contact us to determine whether an opportunity exists to apply for asylum or some other relief from deportation.