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Attorney General, Obama Administration at Odds Regarding Legal Representation for Migrants

attorneygeneral.jpgThere are a number of issues that fall under the larger issue of immigration policy in the United States but one that has garnered a particularly divisive brand of attention over the last several months is that of unaccompanied children from Central American countries crossing the US-Mexico border. Attorney General Eric Holder has been making the argument for the provision of legal counsel for such minors and highlighted that argument in a speech he gave recently to the Hispanic National Bar Association. Holder stated, among other things, that while the constitution of the United States may not dictate that these children have a right to legal representation, we as a nation have a moral obligation to see that they get it.

Holder and the Rest of the Administration Not Seeing Eye to Eye

The statements in particular and Holder’s stance on the issue in general come as something of a surprise to many political officials considering the fact that his department has made claims of support to the contrary. As recently as last week, Leon Fresco, Holder’s Deputy Attorney General, make the statement to a federal judge that if the precedent for the provision of legal counsel for immigrant children who would otherwise be deported is set, then there is a strong likelihood that foreign nationals in Central American countries as well as in other regions will get the false impression that the United States has gone lax on its immigration enforcement and that illegals don’t face deportation at all if they cross the border. He called it the creation of a “magnet effect” and argued that the numbers would increase of not only children but families and individuals of all ages trying to cross the Mexican desert and come into the US illegally.

The Obama administration appears to be at odds with the Attorney General’s stance as to what rights these children have and do not have. But Holder is already making headway in the fight for greater accommodation by the US of immigrant children entering the country. He has talked about a program of nearly $2 million that would provide assistance to legal aid agencies for the specific purpose of representing unaccompanied minors in their immigration court cases. This has caused a great deal of confusion and frustration among immigration advocates who support the idea of legal assistance for the minors but who also don’t understand why the rest of the Presidential administration is not onboard with Holder’s efforts.

Entitled to Court Appearance but Not Representation

Over the course of the last 12 months there has been an influx of over 60,000 children crossing the US-Mexico border without adult accompaniment. Despite lower numbers of individuals crossing the border, there are higher numbers of illegal immigrants being allowed to stay in the United States which is making the backlog of cases in the nation’s immigration courts even deeper. The current policy allows individuals who cross the border into the US, both adults and children, the opportunity to have their case heard in immigration court. They are not, however, guaranteed legal representation and that seems to be what Holder is trying to change at the behest of the rest of the administration.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorney at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.