On April 29, 2016,  177 children’s rights, civil rights, human rights, faith-based, and immigrants’ rights organizations and legal service providers sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch a letter to condemn the practice of detaining and deporting children, and demanding that every child facing deportation is given a lawyer.

We cannot continue to pretend that immigration detention is not incarceration. In fact, it’s worse – because we take liberties away from people who did not commit a crime – subjecting them to a legal process against which they have no hope to defend themselves. To add insult to injury, an immigration judge (in his official capacity) actually said 3-year olds can learn immigration law.

We are a country that jails little kids. We call the jails “family residential centers.” We allow companies to run them for profit

This is a blight on our society. We point fingers at the despotic regimes around the world, creating what we call “refugee crises” – but ignore the crisis on our own border.  We tout the values of our own adversarial justice system, but even as racial disparity in arrests and incarceration persist in the criminal justice system, the immigration machine continues to mete out criminal punishments without corresponding safeguards.

It’s time to at least give children a lawyer. Many (perhaps as many as 80%) actually do have the right to stay in the United States under our laws. That they are denied a meaningful opportunity to present their claims is manifest injustice.

Read the letter here.

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