Ninth Circuit rules taxpayers don't have to provide lawyers for illegal immigrant children
In a decision that is shockingly sensible, a three judge panel of the notorious Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco has ruled that illegal immigrant children are not entitled to free legal representation, funded by taxpayers, in trying to legalize their status. Maura Dolan writes in the Los Angeles Times:
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an immigration judge's decision to deny asylum to a minor identified as C.J.L.G., who left Honduras at age 13 after being threatened by gangs.
The boy did not have a lawyer, and his mother was unable to find free legal help.
The 9th Circuit said federal law did not guarantee paid lawyers for children in immigration court and that the teenage boy failed to show that he needed a lawyer to safeguard his rights.
"Mandating free court-appointed counsel could further strain an already overextended immigration system," wrote Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.
The decision evidently relied on the actual law, not the judges’ policy preferences.
"We sympathize with his personal plight, as C.J. appears to have displayed courage in the face of serious adversity," [Judge] Callahan wrote.
But "the law does not support his requested relief," she said.
The ACLU, which brought the case, has the resources to appeal to the Supreme Court, but faces a dilemma. Currently, the ruling applies only to the Ninth Circuit, while is the SCOTUS hears the case and fails to overturn the decision, it would apply to the entire nation. The Ninth Circuit has the unpleasant distinction of being the most-overturned Circuit Court, but because this decision apparently hews to the law, it may not be winnable in a court less left-leaning than the SF-based Ninth Circuit.
The details of the story of the plaintiff, offered in the LAT story are heartbreaking. But the question for American legislators and jurists is whether the United States can or should place itself in the position of righting every wrong on the planet. There are billions of people beyond our borders who have good reasons to flee their oppressive, impoverished, or dangerous home countries. With our welfare state, life here below the “poverty line” (which measures not actual poverty but relative income status – nobody is starving in streets) is a huge improvement for a huge chunk of the world. If we were forced to pay for their lawyers while they plead their cases, millions more would be sure to follow CJ, tie up our courts, consume our taxes, and end up dragging us down.