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What help is offered to children in deportation proceedings?

While the United States prides itself on the fact that everyone has the right to an attorney when accused of a crime, it's surprising for many people in Florida to learn that this right does not apply to undocumented or unauthorized migrants across the country. The justice system can be overwhelming to say the least, and when the complications of state and federal laws get thrown into the mix, immigrants can often times feel like they are fighting a losing battle.

This is particularly true for immigrant children who are finding themselves in front of immigration judges at an increased rate. While the number of apprehensions of immigrants unlawfully entering the country is at a 40-year low, explains the New York Times, the number of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. from other countries is on the rise. And without the knowledge of the legal system, or enough money for a lawyer, many of these children are facing deportation proceedings alone.

In many cases, these children are coming to the U.S. because they fear what will happen to them if they stay in their home country. With many Central America countries currently embroiled in deadly drug wars, people are fleeing for their lives in alarming numbers. And according to the Border Patrol, at least one in 13 people detained for crossing into the country illegally is under the age of 18.

Because these children are not receiving proper legal representation, they may not know that they can claim asylum in cases where they fear for their lives back home. Only in rare cases where a lawyer offers their services for free, or the child's family has enough money for a private attorney, can the child have any hope to have their case heard and asylum granted. For most, the fear of a returning to almost certain death is a very real and almost certain reality.

Source: The New York Times, "Child Migrants, Alone in Court," Sonia Nazario, April 10, 2013

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