Between July 18 and October 21, immigration courts sped through 800 cases a week to begin processing the tens of thousands of child migrants who crossed the border into the U.S. this past summer, Politico reports. In the same span of time, judges issued 1,542 deportation orders and 94 percent of them went to children who faced their court proceedings without the aid of an attorney.
The public tussle over how children are being fast-tracked through the nation’s notoriously complex immigration system has swung from whether or not the child migrants in question show up at their hearings to whether or not these children deserve to have access to attorneys at all. Because immigration is handled in civil, not criminal courts, those who go before an immigration judge have no right to an attorney.
The already backlogged immigration courts may not have yet seen the full weight of the child migrant crisis, since in those same three months judges have granted more than 10,000 continuances, which put off court hearings so that children can find the time to seek out the services of an attorney, Politico reported.
In addition to $9 million in federal aid to provide these children, many of whom are under the age of 14 and do not speak English, with attorneys, cities like Oakland, San Francisco, and New York have stepped up to provide legal services.