According to a recent The New York Times Article written by Julia Preston, entitled: Young and Alone, Facing Court Deportation, Juan David Gonzalez, a 6-year-old boy was in the court, which would decide whether to expel him from the country, without a parent – and also a lawyer.
Immigration courts in the South Texas border town and across the country are confronting a great number of children, some of them are not even school age, who traveled to the US without parents and were caught as they tried to cross illegally into the United States.
They come mostly from Mexico and Central America. The children ride to the border on the roofs of freight trains or the backs of buses. They cross the Rio Grande on inner tubes, or hike for days in Arizona deserts. Children like Juan, the smallest ones, are usually brought by smugglers.
Such cases pose difficulties for American immigration courts. The people who cannot afford a lawyer have no right to a lawyer paid by the government in immigration courts. And immigration law contains few protections specifically for minors. So if a child as young as Juan has to go before an immigration judge he will go without the help of a lawyer, if one is not privately provided.
This year, more than 11,000 unaccompanied children have been placed in deportation proceedings.
Juan David Gonzalez is just one of the thousands of illegal border crossers. Like any adult, Juan is facing charges of entering the United States without authorization, punishable by removal.
A federal child welfare agency plans to send Juan to be reunited with his parents, who are illegal immigrants living in another state.
The Judge postponed Juan’s proceedings but he warned the boy and other minors in the courtroom.
“If you do not have a lawyer,” the judge said, “you need to be ready to speak for yourselves at your next hearing.”
Juan left holding the social worker’s hand, grinning proudly when she told him he had done well. But his case was just beginning. Most likely it would end with a final order for his deportation.