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May 3, 2019

LOS ANGELES – Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on C.J.L.G. v. Whitaker, a lawsuit that addresses whether immigrant children facing deportation should have the right to a court-appointed attorney. The court found that our client, known as C.J., did not receive a fair hearing. But it declined to address the broader question of whether due process requires counsel for the thousands of children facing deportation.

C.J. fled Honduras at the age of 13 after gang members threatened at gunpoint to kill him and is now facing deportation. Earlier last year, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit rejected C.J.'s claim for a lawyer. But then the full court took the rare step of withdrawing that decision and re-heard the case with a panel of 11 judges.

Please attribute the following statement to Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, who worked on the case:

“We can take only partial solace with this ruling. We are grateful that our client, who was underage when this litigation began, is now out of immediate danger of being deported. But we are disappointed that the majority of judges on the court left unresolved for thousands of children — some of whom are of grade-school age — the question of whether or not they are entitled to counsel when facing deportation.

Asking children to face trained prosecutors in court on enormously complex immigration laws is unconstitutional and simply un-American. Our hope is that because children will now, because of this ruling, at least be given more time to find attorneys, some of them will receive due process. But we are disheartened that the Ninth Circuit has refused to guarantee due process for all.”

Read the ruling (.pdf)