“There should be a public defender system for children,” said Kristie-Ann Padrón, an attorney with Catholic Charities, a nonprofit that took Arlin and her brother’s case for free. “They are not legally competent to sign a contract. How could they be expected to represent themselves in court?”
Padrón says, if deported, some of the children have nothing to go back to.
“Some were suffering from gang violence’” she said.
With the help of Catholic Charities, Arlin and her brother won their asylum case.
Three years have passed, he’s an honors student in high school. Arlin has learned English and works as a supervisor at a movie theatre while she gets her degree.
“I’m doing mechanical engineering and I want to work with the NASA,” Arlin said.
The NBC6 Investigators spent time in immigration court. We spoke with several kids who were facing a Miami judge alone without representation. They told us in Spanish that they fear being deported back.
Most immigration judges we saw in Miami tried to get unaccompanied minors help with non-profit attorneys but those organizations say there just isn’t enough free legal aid to meet the demand.
They say they are always looking for attorneys willing to donate their services." name="&lpos=navigation hover&lid=thousands of immigrant children face a judge without an attorney">Thousands of Immigrant Children Face a Judge Without an Attorney