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Judge OKs class action for children in deportation hearings

28 Jun

SEATTLE — A federal judge has approved class-action status for a lawsuit over whether poor children are entitled to lawyers during deportation hearings.

The order by U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly in Seattle comes in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration advocates. It challenges the government’s failure to provide lawyers.

The plaintiffs in the case are now expected to represent thousands of children throughout the West who are under 18, can’t afford legal representation, and are potentially eligible for asylum or U.S. citizenship.

Matt Adams, the legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said in a statement Monday that under the ruling, the merits of the practice will be argued in a single case, and the government will have to defend a system that, in his words, “pits unrepresented children against trained federal prosecutors.”