Seattle-based U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly rejected the federal Justice Department’s motion Monday to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to secure legal representation for undocumented children who faced deportation. The legal fight was one of several cases related to the government’s handling of illegal immigration months after President Obama exercised executive authority to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit to advocate for a group of Salvadoran siblings who illegally entered America to escape gang violence. Federal officials asked Zilly to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds and argued it would be too expensive for the government to bankroll legal representation in immigration cases. Zilly ruled the immigrants' request for council constituted an argument for due process and required a legal response.
“The Court is of the opinion the due process question plaintiffs have raised in this case is far too important to consign it, as defendants propose, to the perhaps perpetual loop of the administrative and judicial review process,” Zilly's ruling said, according to Politico.
The unaccompanied children arrived in the country in 2013 after their father was killed in front of them by gang members outside their home. Federal officials found the children and located an unnamed family member, with whom they now live in Washington.
The ACLU has repeatedly questioned the federal government’s use of immigration detention facilities to hold undocumented immigrants until a hearing to determine whether they will face deportation. The civil rights organization expressed disappointment last month when the federal government passed a new Department of Homeland Security funding bill that allocated more than $350 million toward these shelters.
“Mandatory detention of people awaiting their immigration proceedings violates the right to due process and is inefficient and costly. Instead of funding immigration detention, Congress should appropriate money for community-based alternatives to detention with case management services, which have been proven to be effective and cost-efficient,” the ACLU said in a statement.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments later this month and decide whether to lift Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction which blocked the implementation of Obama’s executive orders. Hanen approved the measure on behalf of 26 states, including Texas, who assert Obama’s actions were unconstitutional.