By Paula Diaz
The lack of legal counsel in their asylum cases has left hundreds of undocumented mothers and unaccompanied minors from Central America at the doors of deportation, attorneys and activists say.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, says it "has been working very conscientiously to help those Central American mothers and children," many of them in detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania.
"We have volunteer attorneys representing many of those families, but statistics show us that most of them don't have a lawyer to represent them at deportation hearings," Greg Chen, AILA's director of advocacy, told EFE Monday.
"A woman with an attorney can prove she is being persecuted if she is ordered back to her country of origin, and will also know the importance of going to court in order to fully understand its legal obligations," he said.
New data show that the great majority of women with children seeking asylum in the United States, and who were given a deportation order in the last 18 months, did not have access to legal counsel.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which is affiliated with Syracuse University, reports that 86 percent of the 18,607 women and children who received final deportation orders between July 2014 and December 2015 did not have an attorney.
TRAC statistics also show that having access to legal representation makes obtaining asylum 14 times more likely.
"It is deplorable that the government would issue final deportation orders to some 19,000 women and children who never had the chance to have an attorney help them seek the protection of asylum," Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.), told EFE on Monday.
"Even Americans who favor the strictest interpretation of immigration laws are often surprised to find that these families have no right to a court-appointed professional attorney if they don't have the wherewithal to hire one themselves," Atkinson said. EFE